Today I drove an hour through the Minnesota countryside to browse at a thrift store. I so wished I could have pulled off that two lane road to photograph the six deer prancing in a single-file line across a snowy field, but alas, I could not. I did not. Maybe I could have? But I didn’t.
I also didn’t photograph the many frozen lakes dotted with fish houses. I truly do not understand the sport of ice fishing. (Sport? Hobby? Diversion? Punishment? Curious Minnesota custom?) I did want to photograph it but I was not able to since I was driving 60 miles per hour past the frozen lakes. I do remain curious, however.
I had a restorative time browsing through the Goodwill store. (I bought a set of vintage dishes, “Morning Star” which were last produced in 1958. Okay, I also bought some books. Sue me.)
I’ve had such a busy season (we all have, I know) with my retail job and kids visiting and the holidays and, boy howdy, I needed to be alone. I listened to podcasts on the way there and back. I know we haven’t been meeting here (in this blog) like we used to so you don’t know because I haven’t told you that when I relocated to Minnesota, I decided to watch The Office television show, start to finish. I had literally never watched a single episode. I may have developed a teeny tiny obsession. I’m currently reading The Bassoon King by Rainn Wilson.
I’m also listening to an entire podcast about The Office. When I dive, I dive deep. I’ve been through the entire series almost twice and then Netflix had the nerve to stop streaming it last night. [Insert crying face emoji here.]
I know this was a weird year for everyone but I like to believe that My Weird Year™ trumps your weird year because on top of COVID-related events, I also packed up and moved my entire household (minus two kids) by myself while working 12-hour shifts . . . and my awesome husband was living 1,400 miles away the whole time. I have thrown so many things overboard to keep afloat that I don’t know what’s at the bottom of the sea or in the garage.
Also, while other families were cozying up at home, ordering in meals and groceries and collecting over six hundred dollars a week in unemployment benefits while lounging around in sweatpants and consuming vast amounts of streaming entertainment, I’ve managed to somehow be an “essential employee,” which means my life stayed essentially the same. I was still commuting, working, purging, cleaning, packing and moving. Nothing ever really changed for me other than wearing a mask in public and the bitterness I experienced when California closed my trails and beaches while I was trying to enjoy every little thing about California for the last time.
(Also, I know some people really suffered from COVID-induced situations and I do not intend to belittle anyone’s suffering. I’m just over-generalizing and exaggerating for comic effect even though I’m no comic, I know.)
I also took a cross-country road trip by myself which honestly was a highlight of my year. If only I could drive through Utah and Colorado again, but this time, with a full night of sleep beforehand.
While putting up 2021 calendars today, I noticed that the old calendar hanging on my office wall since I moved here was a calendar from 2016. I invite you to consider what kind of ditzy person I am if I’ve had a 2016 wall calendar hanging on my wall for . . . how long? Since California? Did I have this hanging on my wall in California? Did I find it in a box when I got here and figured it was a 2020 calendar and hang it up? What kind of time warp am I in that I failed to notice that the calendar did not correspond with any type of day-to-day reality?
Add to to my confusion that in 2016, January 1 was on a Friday. Just like today. What is happening?
Then I realized. Leap Year. So I will be able to use this calendar for two months.
Will it still be hanging up all year? Only time will tell.
So, I survived COVID with mild symptoms. The worst part was feeling so fatigued and losing my sense of smell. I was diagnosed after two saliva tests. Our household of four all had it, though it was mild for us all.
Now I am in the midst of an extremely busy retail season. And I’m still wearing a mask for 9-10 hours a day which makes me hot and sweaty.
In a little more than a week, my daughter and her boyfriend are coming for Thanksgiving. At least I have the day off in which to cook and since our new house is so much smaller, we’ll all be in the same vicinity while I cook which seems more fun.
We have a little bit of snow on the ground. The wind blew so hard today that my husband’s hat blew off his head when he got out of the car. He was so discombobulated that he left the car door open when we went inside the restaurant. After we’d ordered, an employee came to ask if that was our vehicle with its door wide open.
This week, my pantry shelves collapsed. I’m not sure if I’ve even mentioned it, but if you are keeping score at home, so far the following items have broken in our “new” house:
Glass shelf in the “built-in” cabinet in the tiny dining room (that happened in the days while I was unpacking my extreme collection of dishes and pottery);
Bedroom closet shelf (just after I’d finished putting the final things in);
Office/spare bedroom closet shelf.
The pantry shelves were the kind with brackets and a rail. The entire rail pulled out of the wall, so three of the shelves collapsed. In a shocking turn of events, only one jar broke. My son was the one who heard the food avalanche, and thus, he was the one to clean up shards of glass mixed with spaghetti sauce. I felt sorry for him but I was at work.
I feel like gravity here in Minnesota in stronger than in California. How else to explain the fact that items that I’d easily stored on shelves in California are suddenly too heavy for shelves? (I know. The shelf installation here is shoddy. I like to imagine a problem with gravity instead.)
So today, I went to Costco and bought a heavy duty metal wire shelving unit to keep in the garage. Voila! A pantry that isn’t convenience, but which will be sturdy. (And I am going to have someone come and fix the shelves but who knows when.)
My friend, Diane, told me years ago that it takes five years to feel settled in a new place. That thought always comforts me when I feel like I’ll never have any friends here and that I’ll always feel like a stranger in a strange land where shelves cannot withstand all the stuff I own.
(Also: Do not recommend moving during a pandemic. It’s so hard to get to know people, alas.)
I’m sick. The last time I was ill was in February 2020 when I returned from a quick trip to Orlando, Florida, where my husband and I visited Walt Disney World. I believe I had Covid then (as everyone who was sick in February 2020 does) because I was so sick for two weeks, coughing as if I had turned into a professional cougher.
And then Covid shut-downs started and we all became extraordinary hand-washers and social-distancers. How could you even get sick when you weren’t close to anyone at all? I didn’t even have a sniffle eight months.
My husband, however, managed to come down with a cold (that’s what we think it was) last week and within three days, I felt that telltale scratchy throat while finishing up my shift at work Saturday night.
I KNOW. There’s nothing more boring that hearing someone talk about their illness, so pardon me.
We’ve had shelving put up in our house so I am finally unpacking books and clearing up the piles of stuff. I’ll have to get rid of stuff since I plan to stay here forever and I know my kids don’t want any of my stuff and this house can only accommodate so much stuff. I can’t wait until my leisure time will actually have space for leisure. As it is, any free time I have is spent frantically cleaning and unpacking and organizing. (It’s like Groundhog Day for the past year.)
Today, for instance–even though I am sick (headache, body aches, no fever)–I assembled a 5 foot bookshelf and a nightstand. I did two loads of laundry and unpacked eight or nine boxes in the basement and put books and games on the shelves. I really know how to rest when I’m sick. Tomorrow I’m scheduled to be off anyway and I’ll have to call my manager and answer questions about my illness. If I’m suspected of having The Virus, I will be put on a 14 day leave.
We had snow already–a week or two ago?–but this week is supposed to be warmer and sunny. Since I’m working retail, it really feels like Christmas already to me. They are talking about getting Spring merchandise in the store already. Christmas music started playing two weeks ago. It’s very disorienting.
Well, that’s it for now.
p.s. I was diagnosed with COVID. I never had a fever. My symptoms included: headache, scratchy throat, mild cough, extreme fatigue and I lost my sense of smell for about a week. After 10 days, I went back to work.
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.