I’m sitting at my desk, surrounded by stacks of unorganized but shelved books. A man in our church installed sturdy shelves stretching the length of two walls in my tiny office here. Yesterday, after working from 6 AM to 3 PM, I unpacked all but four boxes of books. (I started with twenty four, I think.)
Honestly, this room looks like one of those really unkempt claustrophobic used book stores that you walk in and straight back out again because you’re scared a book avalanche might maim you.
For the first time in my life, my desk sits under a window and I can peer outside from my keyboard. The lake is blue–I have an obscured view on either side of the across-the-street-neighbor’s house which is pale yellow. The leaves on the trees range from mustard to gold and green and brown. Today, the sky is blue as well and it’s fifty-five degrees according to my phone. Weirdly, it’s supposed to be 80 degrees tomorrow.
I’ve been working long hours these days in retail. I worked a job at an office supply store a long time ago and while I really liked it, I never could afford to work retail again. However, this particular large arts and crafts store pays its full-time employees pretty well, especially considering the cost of living here.
Anyway, so I have unexpectedly changed careers again and find that I am enjoying the change of pace as well as the actual unbelievably fast-pace of every day at work–we race from one end of the store to the next and I perpetually have a sheen of sweat on my forehead. I look at the time and find I missed my morning break, then accidentally miss my afternoon break as well and only my aching feet tell me that I have worked a long day in the blink of an eye.
Yesterday, the manager asked me if I would be willing to be the new sewing department head. Of course, I said yes. It’s really the perfect spot for me. I love fabric in a way only fabric-lovers will understand. `
Of course, the only bummer about working is that it takes up so much time. I have so much reading to do, so many places to explore and projects galore–not to mention that I’m still not settled in here. I want more time in my days and my weeks.
Every time I move I’m extremely impatient about how long it takes to get to know people. In the time of COVID it’s even worse. I always remind myself that my friend Diane told me it takes a solid five years to feel you belong someplace, so I try to give myself grace but it’s hard. I want to be comfortable and fit in and have friends.
Even introverts want friends, you know.
Well, it’s time put on shoes and head to work. That’s the other thing about retail–some days you start at 6 AM and some days you start at noon.
I thought I would be ready when the moving truck arrived on July 29, but I was a fool. I ended up sleeping a scant one hour the night before and when I rose from my bed that morning, I still wasn’t quite entirely packed.
I kept asking myself why I had so much stuff. I kept throwing stuff I needed to pack in my vehicle in the downstairs bedroom so the movers wouldn’t take it. I threw stuff that needed to go to a thrift store in there, too. Pretty soon that room was a disaster but it was a disaster I could close the door on.
I could see Neighbor Bob outside, puttering in his yard and so I asked him if he’d help me pack the televisions. The moving coordinator told me the crew could do it but it would cost a lot of money ($140 each!). I said no thanks and Bob and I tucked them into boxes ourselves.
The movers came, but instead of the giant Mayflower semi-truck I expected, it was a large white box truck. I was confused but apparently there was no driver available to drive my load to Minnesota so it would be packed into the box truck, driven to San Diego, unloaded and then reloaded into the semi-truck when a driver was assigned. Doesn’t that sound crazy?
I spent my whole day still packing, keeping one step ahead of the moving crew. According to my Fitbit, the day before the move, I logged 15,308 steps. The day of the move, I logged 22,430 steps. That’s a lot of walking.
In the late afternoon, they drove off. A cleaning crew I hired came over to start cleaning. My daughter and I picked up sushi and ate it on my bedroom floor (no furniture left, remember?). She left (she moved in with a friend) and I STILL had stuff to do. A friend came over and took what was left in the pantry and garage. I was so grateful for him and his son who also dragged six old mattresses to the curb for bulk waste pickup the next morning.
Then I did what I could and slept (on an air mattress), figuring I’d hit the road by 8 or 9 the next morning. I packed my Honda CR-V until it was dark but alas, still had SO MUCH STUFF to pack in it. I was transporting a son’s valuable guitar, another son’s valuable computer parts (he was constructing a computer when we got to Minnesota) and more. So much more.
The next morning I woke and systematically started moving everything downstairs that still had to go. So much random stuff that I wish I’d had time and boxes to pack, but that’s just how it goes sometimes. When I finally was ready, it was closer to 11 AM and my vehicle was packed full to the tops of all the seats. I had to leave behind a lot of stuff I meant to bring, not valuable stuff, but still.
And I surely did not want to leave that late, but what was I to do? I had to sort through the disaster in that downstairs bedroom: trash, recycling, thrift store, items to be packed in my vehicle. My good neighbor Bob told me he’d take care of all the thrift store stuff and everything else, too. He hugged me tightly when I was ready to drive off and that was the one time I almost lost it and burst into tears.
Long story short, my drive was great but long. It was 120 degrees at some points along the way that first day. I drove all the way to Moab, Utah, the first day, arriving at 1:30 AM. I pulled up to my hotel and was told that the reservation was cancelled and I was in disbelief and horror, but then I went back to my car and managed to pull up the confirmation on my email. My new reservation was at the adjoining hotel.
I have never been so happy to crawl into bed as I was that night/morning. However, the reason I’d driven so far was so I could hike to the Delicate Arch at dawn, so I slept about four hours, woke at 6 AM and went hiking in the heat. The hike was much more strenuous than I anticipated and I actually thought at one point that I might pass out, but I did not! I made it to the top along with a bunch of other people.
Seriously, though, it was exhausting. But no regrets! The Arches National Park was amazing and I pulled over to take photos as I drove in and out of it.
I went back to my hotel and slept until check-out time (another couple hours of sleep) and then drove another 10 hour day, finishing up in Nebraska (at 11 PM). That day I drove along the Colorado River in Utah (a spectacular scenic highway) and then through the mountains skirting Denver. (Right through Aspen, as a matter of fact.)
Then I had only one more day of driving.
A note about a solo road trip: I originally asked two different friends if they could make the drive with me but neither was able to. So I drove alone and it was awesome. I listened to an audio book, music and podcasts. I stopped and took 20 minute power naps when I needed to. I really, really enjoyed the road trip, even more than I thought I would.
I pulled into my new garage at 8:30 PM and then we unloaded my car. The stuff I brought was so random (my KitchenAid mixer, my grandma’s treadle Singer sewing machine, my sons’ stuff, spray paint, a few succulents, etc.) and then I placed a ten pound weight on what I thought was a ledge but wasn’t and it fell on my toe. I thought I might have broken that poor toe but it just hurt a lot for a few weeks. My foot turned purple.
The moving truck took TWENTY-SIX DAYS to arrive here in Minnesota. Fortunately, in the spring we’d had new living room furniture (couch, ottoman, chair) delivered here so I slept on the couch for 26 days. My husband had a full-sized bed (loaned by someone) but it was not comfortable and too small, so I chose the couch. The boys had new twin beds/frames that I’d had delivered here, so they had beds, too.
Then I had 26 days of a sort of leisure. My daughter flew out for a few days so we hit the thrift stores and spent time together. We spontaneously picked up two barn kittens from some lady out in the country.
Finally, the moving truck arrived. Glory be and hooray. The following week I unpacked, discovering that I didn’t have enough room for everything. I had ditched a lot of furniture and shelves so I have literally no bookshelves for the 25 boxes of books I own. This is a problem, but I have the unpacked boxes all stacked neatly by the wall in the living room and outside my office door.
I planned to get IKEA bookcases but COVID has ruined everything, including the stock at IKEA. Most items I need are not available at the moment.
A few days before the moving truck came, my husband and I were walking from a restaurant to the local Home Depot, passing by a well known hobby store which had a NOW HIRING sign on its door. He said, “You should work there,” but I said, no way, retail doesn’t pay enough, but then I discovered it started at $15.70 an hour (minimum wage in this state is $9.86 an hour) and so I picked up an application on a Thursday, the moving truck came Monday, I had an interview two days later on Wednesday and then I started working the following Monday.
Needless to say, my house isn’t quite put together yet. I still have no bookcases. I have some storage issues. Things are a little disorganized. My clothes closet shelf collapsed after I finished putting things away (come on!) and things are not perfect.
But I am happy to be working retail though it’s a drastic change. I would have been happy to continue working in Police Records but that didn’t work out here. I couldn’t even get an interview (there were 140 applicants!), so this is a good change of pace. I like how active my days are and how fast the time passes. My co-workers range in age from 16 to mid-sixties (I’d guess). The pace is frantic and we haven’t yet begun our busy season. After the COVID shut-down, people have been flocking to buy seasonal items, home decor and craft stuff more than than ever before. As the managers have said, “Every day is Saturday.”
I have logged between 8,000 and 15,000 steps every day that I’ve worked. I’ve unloaded the truck, cut fabric, stocked shelves, helped customers, and been a cashier, some days all at once.
So that’s how things are. I live in Minnesota now. Summer abruptly ended though I hear it’s going to warm up next week, the leaves are about to change (you can just tell) and people keep asking me if I’m worried about winter.
I’m not. Why worry about things you cannot change?
I have fifteen minutes before the Costco entree in the oven is done baking.
Today was my last trip to my local Costco because in seven days the moving truck will be here and no one needs to haul 25 pounds of flour across the country. But I did need coffee to leave with my daughter and snacks for the roadtrip and a few things for a little get-together I’m hosting to say goodbye to some of my colleagues. Plus, prescriptions. That, actually, was the main thing.
The Saturday before you move may be the best time and place to throw a party because there is no expectation of a picture-perfect house when most of your furniture is gone and most of your household is packed. I’m going to give them items from my pantry and unused hair products from my bathroom as party favors.
Today I moved my second oldest son into a room he’s renting near San Diego. He’ll be attending SDSU online and in person. If he’d had even one more bin of belongings it wouldn’t have fit into the room. As it is, he’ll be cozy with a full size bed, armoire, wooden desk and 88-key electric piano. He literally has to sit on his bed to play the piano.
Anyway, the back of my CR-V was full and his girlfriend hauled the piano and desk chair in the back of her truck. Tomorrow, he is accompanying his twin brother to Minnesota and will be staying a week before flying home to San Diego and back to his rented room. His twin will stay in Minnesota without him which will be quite an adjustment for these two who have been together either in the same womb or room since conception.
So tomorrow, I’m delivering them to the airport.
Then I will come back and pack up their room.
Also, tomorrow is my favorite day of the week . . . TRASH DAY. Glory be!
You are definitely an adult when you are thrilled about Trash Day.
I’m not sure if I should feel more panicked about this whole situation. I have done an awful lot of packing. My house looks tragic and full of boxes but empty of furniture.
I woke up to a blaring text message at 4:48 AM. “I’m sorry to wake you up, but could you bring me an Advil? I just woke up and I’m in pain and can’t fall back asleep.”
That’s because she had all four wisdom teeth out on Tuesday and yesterday was a very bad day for her. She’s my third kid to have all four wisdom teeth yanked out and by far, she has had the worst post-surgery effects. Immediately after surgery, she felt nauseated and the nausea prevented her from taking effective pain medication and then we realized that dairy is definitely a problem for her on top of everything else.
So I got out of bed, took her an Advil and some ice packs and went back to bed where I was unable to sleep until maybe 6:15 AM.
Then at 7:06 AM, my phone rang. I had finally fallen into a deep sleep, so I answered it half-awake. My husband was calling with information about an 8 AM video call my son was scheduled for . . . we needed to pay before the call. So I asked how far before the call? Ten minutes? Twenty? Now?
We hung up. Three minutes later, I’m sort of asleep again, the phone rings. More information from my husband. WE DO THIS AGAIN AT 7:22 AM.
At that point, I decided to set my alarm for fifteen minutes . . . which I did, but I did not press START. (When I set the alarm, I thought it was 7:15 AM.)
But instead of waking to an alarm at 7:30, I woke to panic at 7:48 AM. Amazingly, we were ready for the call at 8 AM (and then waited for the other party for seven minutes).
Today I focused on setting up arrangements to fly my (daughter’s) unfriendly cat to Minnesota. When I read the email more carefully, I realized that this will be impossible because of the high summer temperatures in Dallas. I don’t know what we will do. I would like to relinquish the cat to a shelter or stranger. My daughter suggested maybe she can keep it for a couple of months until the weather is cooler and then ship the cat. I JUST DON’T NEED THIS COMPLICATION IN MY LIFE. So that’s still up in the air (only not literally).
Every time I start a task today, I get interrupted. My daughter needs ice packs chilled or heating packs warmed. She wants something to eat, but she doesn’t know what. The bike guy comes by to tune-up the bicycles. The laundry needs to be switched. I remember ten other things that distract me from the one thing I’m doing.
At some point, I decide to get a Diet Coke and a salad. I drive down the street, realize I have no phone and drive back to get it.
Then I drive to McDonalds for my $1.00 Diet Coke and realize after I’ve ordered that I left my wallet at home, on my desk when I was about to book that flight for the cat using a credit card. I drive back home to get the wallet and go to a different McDonalds to get that Diet Coke.
I’m handed the drink, drive forward, take a sip and realize I have a Dr. Pepper. I drive to Del Taco, get a burrito because I’ve given up on a salad and then go back to get my Diet Coke.
What is even happening today?
I check my email and see that the job I applied for in Minnesota–for which I am uniquely qualified and well-suited–will not be mine. There were over 140 applicants and so I didn’t even get an interview. I guess something else will work out but at this point I feel like I’m running into walls every time I turn around.
Now it’s after 4 PM and I’m not sure what I’ve actually accomplished. I did get one entire box packed but mainly I’m just frustrated and overwhelmed and just a tad bit stressed out.
And I KID YOU NOT, one of my grown sons just texted me, “So, what’s the plan for dinner if you have any this evening?”
My plan for dinner involves a spoon and a carton of ice cream.
I have this recurring dream where I have to leap great distances like some kind of mountain goat or Tom Cruise. I can feel the terror and the impossibility of the span but what can I do? I’m stuck in that dream. I have to catapult my body through the air.
In real life I’m facing a giant leap. As the clock ticks down, I have to jump from California to Minnesota, from this life to another. I already have one foot in the air, wind whistling in my ears, arms outstretched like the slow-motion scenes in the Matrix movies.
The moving truck will arrive on July 29.
I’m moving so fast that I’m practically standing still. In these seconds that pass like minutes, in these hours that disappear in a blink, I will lose half my kids. I’m flying from a full nest to a half-empty one, abandoning my two baby birds even though they aren’t babies. I’m not leaving them behind; they decline to move.
It feels weird. This is the first time since I left home in a Greyhound bus bound for college that I felt like I was unzipping one life and slipping into another.
I spend half my week doing nothing but working at my job. While I’m there, it’s as if nothing will ever change. Truth is, I’ll be giving my two weeks notice in a little over a month. Don’t tell my boss.
The other half of the week I carry on (grocery shop, clean, launder clothes) and then sort, purge, pack, sort, purge, pack. It’s always surprising how long it takes to pack a few boxes. I tell myself the each box I pack is a box I won’t have to pack again, so I am making progress. In slow motion.
I’m glad that the thrift store has opened back up so I have a place to leave my discarded belongings.
I really hate to be wrong and I hate to be misunderstood. I am constantly questioning my own motives and so when someone else questions my motives I become a porcupine throwing quills at the threat.
I have incredibly high–maybe impossibly high–standards for myself and when I apply those standards to other people, things generally do not go well. I become critical and disappointed and irritated.
But . . . I have studied the situation, I have noticed the details, I have figured out the correct way to do things. So why doesn’t everyone do things the right (my) way? This is the question that rides around with me like a pebble in my Birkenstock. This is my story.
I know this about myself yet I run this lap over and over again as if it’s a marathon and if I just keep running I’ll find a finish line.
When I get into a judgmental cycle, my inner critic points out my hypocrisy. Who am I to make up the rules? Am I perfect? Who am I to observe and critique? Am I the queen?
Who am I?
I am the one who just wants to be good and right and perfect.
But in this case (the case I can’t really tell you all about because it’s about work and also because it’s embarrassing when your boss’s boss commands you to march upstairs to a meeting in his office and then sternly gives you a talking to that you honestly don’t feel like you deserve because he’s clearly misunderstood you and your motives and your very essence but whatever), I am choosing to literally take a breath and stop.
What does it matter to me if others are are slackers, if they are wrong and don’t meet the/my standards? It can’t matter to me.
I am only responsible for myself. I am only responsible for myself. I am only responsible for myself.
I am not the rule enforcer or the supervisor or Your Majesty.
I know this and yet I forget.
But don’t remind me because I’ll throw a quill at you.
At this time of year, yellow flowers burst into bloom here in southern California–especially following ample rain, which we had this year. I drove around–as I am wont to do during this time of sheltering in place–and tried to find somewhere I could pull over to photograph the flowers since all the trails are closed.
I told myself to just memorize it with my eyes–as my daughter used to tell me when she was young and impatient with my photography–but I wanted a photo for this blog post. Finally, I saw the parking lot of the dog park and circled around and parked.
The sky is blue, the sun is shining and the weather is warm. This is why people love San Diego. This is the exact kind of day that prompted me to say so many mornings, “What a beautiful day!” as if I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it. There’s an average of 266 sunny days a year here and each one is glorious.
I’ve loved living here but as this chapter closes, I’m looking forward to seasons and change. My husband reminds me that San Diego will still exist, even after we go. That makes it easier to let go.
But in the meantime, yellow flowers bloom everywhere, sunny reminders that time cycles around and around. I’m tucking this memory into this blog for safekeeping.
I baked cupcakes the other day without adding the baking soda. Ugh.
There are still no paper products at the local Albertsons grocery store.
I’m in the middle of my workweek and I’m so tired that I am squinty.
All the parks and trails and beaches are closed here and this week the weather is supposed to warm up to the 80s and I’m feeling kind of bitter about not being able to go outside and enjoy the weather–and my time off–in nature.
I replaced a door knob this week. Grease covered my hands and I had to use sheer determination to compensate for weak hands. It’s funny how directions use one sentence (“Remove screws from face plate”) and it sounds so simple until you realize that you cannot access the screws because the thingamajig is stuck and so you have to bend metal with a screwdriver handle. But I did it. It took a solid hour.
You know what’s worse than cooking dinner? Cooking dinner after a twelve hour shift. Yesterday I ate avocado toast and baby carrots for dinner. Tonight, we’re having English muffin pizzas. Tomorrow? A bowl of cereal and a cup of water. Or maybe gruel. I just don’t care. The fresh vegetables I bought a week ago are probably rotting. I’m trying to care, but I’m just too tired.
I saw a guy in a tiger costume skateboarding and being filmed by another guy with a fancy camera in Carlsbad the other day. I wish I had more information about that.
Okay, well, this has been your friendly nonsensical update.
I finally did it. I called the cable company and cut off cable television. Of course, I also increased our internet, but the bottom line is that I cut $200 a month.
Why didn’t I do this earlier? I supposed it’s because I remember the old days before cable television (five channels if you were lucky) and hadn’t fully embraced the new days of streaming services–even though my kids fully have. We have Hulu and Amazon Prime and Netflix, so we will never lack something to watch–and none of my kids have watched real television for years.
I was determined to do nothing today. It sounds easy but for some reason, I find it incredibly difficult to just laze around. I woke up and decided to go for a walk. Turns out it was rainy but I went anyway, listening to a podcast about Joe Exotic (that guy! have you heard about him yet?). My daughter asked if I’d bake something because it’s her boyfriend’s birthday today, so I baked brownies.
Then I decided to get a late lunch at Chik-Fil-A and drive along the beach. Again, it was rainy but it was relaxing to drive and listen to yet another podcast. I stopped by the Flower Fields and took a couple of photos and then my husband called and now here I am.
What will I do with the rest of my do-nothing day? I think I’ll stream something . . . or scroll on my phone or maybe I’ll even read.
Tomorrow? My son is getting his wisdom teeth pulled, so that will set the framework for the day. (Better him that me. Fun fact: I never had wisdom teeth at all.)
My new-to-me Honda CR-V would not start yesterday at 6 AM in my driveway. I was on my way to work for a 12-hour shift and for a moment I thought I just didn’t know how to start it. You press your foot on the brake, then press the button. So I tried again. The lights flickered and kind of waved goodbye and turned off.
For a second, I thought I’d have to stay home then I remembered I have another car! Score!
So I took the Fiat instead which is the car I used to drive before I essentially gave it to my daughter.
This morning Neighbor Bob met me outside my house and jump-started the CR-V. Additionally, he showed me exactly how to hook up the cables after I told him that I was scared of jump-starting cars. Then, he drove his red pickup to Pepboys while I followed in my vehicle. He led me inside and told the guy I needed a battery and after I was all set (waiting in the waiting room, sitting on a plastic covered chair), he left.
Afterward, I went to Costco where I donned my medical mask and joined the other shoppers. With every breath my glasses fogged up, so that was awesome.
We all looked like armed robbers with our bandanas and masks. What is happening!?
I was so happy to find paper towels to purchase. What an odd time to be alive when my heart leaps for joy over paper products.
But what you’re really asking yourself is, “Who is Neighbor Bob?”
Neighbor Bob is the man who lives across the street. He is a retired orthodontist, the kind of human being who once appeared on our doorstep and offered to take over my daughter’s orthodontia work for free.
About a year ago, after a sudden job loss, we knew that we’d need to move somewhere, somehow. The where and how were unclear, but the undeniable truth was that we’d need to sell our house.
Have you ever sold a house? I was dreading the entire process. And one day as I drove up my street, I suddenly thought, “Bob should buy our house.”
Now, obviously this makes no sense. Bob already owns a house–the one across the street. But this voice spoke quite clearly to me and so I mentioned it half-laughing to my husband. He looked puzzled but then he jokingly mentioned it to Bob and Bob said, “Hmmm, I might do that.”
You see, Neighbor Bob is a man who likes–or rather, he needs a project. He had redone his entire house when he and his wife purchased it. He redesigned the landscaping and would be often out in the yard with a wheelbarrow and shovel. He’d help neighbors with their yards and houses.
Bottom line: Neighbor Bob bought our house and now we rent back month-to-month. My husband moved to Minnesota last September, so ever since I’ve been here with the kids as we drag this move out so two of my kids can finish up school years. (Did I already tell you that?)
Neighbor Bob solved the problem of water flowing through the garage when it rains. Neighbor Bob has redesigned my front yard and soon there will be a new walkway and stairs and flower boxes. Neighbor Bob takes my trash can in (or out) if I’m not around.
At any rate, we now own a really cute home in Minnesota and we rent this one here in California, too. It’s a lot to juggle but soon life will calm down–for all of us, I sure hope.
Meanwhile, Neighbor Bob continues to be a blessing to our family in a way that I never could have imagined when I decided he should buy our house. Life’s weird sometimes.