on the move

My mother and I frequently watch Escape to the Country, a British show about moving to the tranquil countryside in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales. It’s a calming show and one that we can both enjoy. Unlike most of the U.S. design or real estate shows, the properties are unique and lovely in their own way. We’ve seen walls of every shade imaginable, doorways where even I would have to duck, staircases that cannot possibly meet a modern building code, and ceiling beams that are structural not decorative … and often are in the neighborhood of 400 years old. I despair of the reaction from the House Hunters crowd who would probably want to gut the place and install granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and an open floorplan. And I say this as someone with stainless steel appliances, quartz countertops and a largely open plan space in my last apartment.

The buyers on Escape – often couples either just starting out or looking to retire – are unfailingly polite and complimentary even when the place is not quite right for them. While they identify which house is their favorite, there is no assumption that they will buy one of them – it’s a little treat when they do buy! The rotating hosts don’t pretend that they are actually doing the work themselves (i.e., the “show” pulls together the list of properties). They are fairly jolly, have a sense of humor, and really seem to enjoy tea and cakes or a pint at the local pub. There is usually a short segment on someone who is keeping an ancient skill alive, an organic approach to producing stuff, an outdoor activity or a local factory/company/estate/farm that is doing something new or interesting. The views are incredible, as are the random farm animals that graze in the field or wander over to see what’s going on. You can just relax into the show. It’s not a heavy lift.

Returning to reality, Mom, Oscar and I moved about 9 months ago – I cannot believe that it’s been that long. Unlike Escape, we did not seek out a rural view, country idyll or slower pace of life. To be honest, our pace of life could not be considered breakneck at this point! We are pretty low key. Our move was really for a specific reason – to get a second bedroom so that my mother could have some privacy and I could reclaim more of my apartment space! I cannot adequately express my joy at being able to watch TV in the living room after she has gone to bed or even, dare I say, grab a late-night snack from the kitchen without disturbing her. My little office space is not quite up and running yet, but hopefully soon. I cannot wait until I can take my laptop over to that desk and work from there. I’ll soon be starting a string of posts on renovating the new place. It’s been an adventure.

It’s interesting to hear people’s responses to moving. For some, it seems like the end of the world, as they are very connected to their home. They fight to stay in their homes, even when it is difficult or impossible to maintain their home or when it is overwhelming for them. For others, moving is an adventure and opportunity to do something new. I would guess that for most of us, it’s somewhere in between. I’ve moved around in past – for a while, I had a very predictable pattern of moving every three years, even within the same city. I don’t know why, but it was so well-established that it had to mean something. So, moving is not traumatic but it is a lot of work – more than it used to be when I was younger and lived alone.

The good thing about moving is that it means you weed out your belongings – some things stay, some move on to someone else and some stuff is finally shifted to the trash bin. It’s interesting to think about what we keep. I own certain objects and pieces of furniture that are not objectively great but I will not part with them until I am forced to do so – a rocking chair my mother gave me when I was about 12 years old, an old desk that has been passed down in the family, a vase that belonged to my grandmother, a piggy bank that my father gave me, an old mirror, the first table I bought, and so on. These are “me” and have a place in my heart and meaning beyond functionality. Most of my belongings are not in this category and can be replaced if needed. That is not to say that I don’t like my belongings – I’m quite fond of nearly all my furniture, for example. Then, of course, there are things I would like to get rid of but need, for one reason or another. Apologies to Marie Kondo, but I think it’s reasonable to keep stuff that doesn’t “spark joy” because, well, sometimes you just need a screwdriver or ratty old towel to clean something or clothes that you don’t wear but would be expensive to replace.

One philosophy I subscribe to is that I need to live within my own space, however large or small that is, and not have separate storage. I’m currently violating this principle, as I have a storage closet here in my building that is currently housing a kitchen cabinet and boxes of tile. However, the closet was a temporary solution for the move/renovations. As soon as the cabinet can be installed, the boxes of tile will move to my apartment (somewhere!) and I will again be self-contained.

I am now debating (with myself) about under-the-bed and over-the-door hanging storage. On one hand, it is space that can be put to good use. I don’t have a lot of closet space in the new apartment, so using space under the beds or hanging something over the door is practical and sensible. On the other hand, it bothers me for some reason. It’s one thing to keep essentials, but at what point am I keeping more than the essentials? I would like to get to a point where I have everything neatly tucked into closets and have the under-bed space open and clean. Of course, this will be impossible to truly achieve, as I have a couple of boxes of flooring and extra tiles from the new bathroom that are currently under my mother’s bed and there is no place for them to go. The over-the-door storage means that I cannot close the door, so this is a bit problematic. Ah, problems ….

When I moved to (and bought) my last apartment, I stayed for more than 15 years and would still be there had my mother not moved down, so I think my apartment-hopping days are over. I plan to stay in my new home for at least 15 years, at which point, I will be in my 70s. Since I stayed in the same building for this latest move, it amazes me to think that I might live in one building for 30 years! It’s not where I thought I would end up, but this building is home now and that is very appealing.

am I happy yet?

As I mentioned in a prior post, my sister-in-law asks pointed questions that stay with me for a while. During one of their visits a couple of years ago, she asked me whether I was happy with my life. I responded with a tepid “yes”. This lukewarm response was less to do with an overall assessment of life than with a sense that the past couple of years have been challenging. I haven’t achieved what I hoped I would in my professional life or all that I could have achieved. But in reality, I’m not sure that I would change anything because I have enjoyed the journey.

As a never-married woman who has no children, I think some people assume that I must be unhappy and frustrated – I’m not. Or that I must be terribly self-centered – I don’t think I am. Or that I must be pining for love – I’m not. Or that I must be afraid of having no one to care for me in my old age – well, maybe a little. I’m sure many people would find it all very sad or assume that I’m deluding myself about the need for a relationship, but the reality is that I’m very happy with how things have turned out for me. 

Overall, I feel like I am living the life I was meant to live. Some little girls dream of meeting prince charming, having a big wedding and becoming a mother. Even as child, I really didn’t envision getting married or having children – it wasn’t the dream I had for myself. I’ve never been particularly focused on relationships or dating. Many of the activities that I most enjoy are fairly solitary in nature – I’m very much an introvert.

I have everything I need and most things I want – though I would love a magic wand that would quickly finish off my renovations … for no additional cost! I think I could have achieved more, but the jobs that inspired my greatest commitment were not sustainable. I’ve bounced around a bit professionally. I am happy with my job and my work contribution, which is great as many people are not happy with their current position.

Are there new things I would like to accomplish? Yes, I just have to figure out how to get there and make the decision to focus my attention and energy. This has always been the challenge for me. I find it hard to settle into one thing. I’m interested in many things and see connections between issues, so to me it feels like I’ve connected the dots but others see “bouncing around” and lack of continuity. 

As long as I am taking care of my mother, any course changes will be on hold because I don’t have the time or energy to take on something new just yet. The good news is that this gives me some “down time” to figure out what I want and how to get there. I have some ideas and hopefully will be able to take some baby steps over the coming year.

the cat is looking his age

Oscar has always been a beautiful cat and he still is in many ways, but he’s somewhere around 20 years old now and has slowed down considerably. We’re using an old photo here – he’s a bit on the vain side and prefers the older photo for public consumption. He was a stray, so I’m not sure how old he is – he was about 2 when I adopted him almost 18 years ago. While he is hanging in there, we had one of the worst days of his life a few days ago.

Continue reading

excuses, excuses!

shield-417826_1920So, I’m not sure why I keep putting things off. I’ve always been a bit of a procrastinator, but until last year if something made it on my ever-present “to do” list, it got done. Over the past year, I’ve not only skipped over tasks, I’ve been ignoring the list altogether.

I think (hope) that I may be hitting a turning point, though, as I’m now starting to pay attention to the list again. This doesn’t mean that I’m actually completing things on the list, but at least I’m acknowledging existence of a list and tasks that I’ve been neglecting. This is progress! Continue reading

the all-important cat update

Sorry for the delayed post. It has been a complicated few weeks.

Oscar, at age 18, has had a challenging year. It all started about 6 months ago, when Oscar started pooping outside his litter box. He had never done this before (outside of the occasional accident) so I took him to the vet. Thus began a concentrated focus on cat poo that I never thought possible … and roller coaster ride of emotions. Continue reading

what happened to that book you were writing?

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Last year, when I took my 6-month break (that became a 12-month break), I had planned to work on a book. I would write a little story and my mother, who has done arts and crafts all her life, would work on the illustrations. This lovely little book would be shared with family and friends. The book should have been done by now … but it’s not. What happened? Continue reading

picking up where we left off

tree-of-life-3132592_1920I have a lot of first cousins – on my mother’s side and my father’s side. Although I occasionally visited with the cousins on my mother’s side when I was growing up, I’m getting to know them better as an adult. This has been a really rewarding experience and I’ve enjoyed it.

On my father’s side of the family, it’s completely different.  I grew up with my cousins, we went to the same schools, saw each other at frequently family get-togethers and cookouts, played together and so on. When we were kids, there was a wonderful camaraderie – we teased each other and laughed a lot and grew up. There were also losses along the way. We were all so young when my father died – it is part of our collective story and memory. So is our grandmother’s funeral, when we were young adults. Continue reading

the evolution of things

 

banner-1076214_1920In a prior posts (including staying on schedule, logging progress and challenging fears), I talked about putting together lists and organizing my mother’s time and space. It’s a process. Every time we fix one piece, there seems to be another that needs an adjustment.  These aren’t wholesale changes – just tweaking around the edges. Changing out one spreadsheet for another. Switching out furniture for something easier to use. Editing some instructions on how to use X, Y and Z to include more pictures. Simplifying … everything. Continue reading