Wednesday, March 21, 2012

To make anew

I have spent the last several days in an inner place in my mind, beginning to process the changes that are occurring -- one kid off to college, another off to college but still living at home, and a third not quite sure what her plans are, plus doing two high school graduations, selling a house,  buying another, plus moving 90 miles and a world away from where we are now.  

It's no wonder at times I feel a sense of vertigo; as if it's all spinning too fast and I need to step off the merry-go-round for awhile.  I've felt more un-footed and rootless than I have in years, this during a time I thought I'd be doing a touchdown victory dance in the endzone of life.  But sometimes no matter how much you prepare for a change, no matter how long you're expecting it for, when it finally happens you still find yourself a little in shock.

I've realized one thing I can do to help in the transition once we're moved in is to create some new traditions.  When I first divorced and my son was very small, that was how I anchored myself in a new and strange life as a single mom.  Once a week, we'd have Pajama Pizza Parties, where we'd come home, change into our jammies and sit and eat pizza in front on the fire on a picnic blanket.  There was the Blossom Train in springtime, the pool in summer, Satterstroms around Halloween and a Christmas Cake at the holidays.  

They were simple traditions, and maybe that was the point.  I think I needed very much to realize that things could be good again, and easy ... and fun.  Those things helped me keep my sanity.  No matter what was happening on the job, with my divorce, or in my personal life, Pajama Pizza Night would be there, and all that would be required of me would be to sit in front of the fireplace with my little boy and enjoy some time together.

My husband and I (as well as just me on my own) and the various assortment of adult kids who will be coming in and out of the house will all have to start creating new traditions in our new home and our new area.  It might be Sundays at the beach, Tuesday night Chinese Take-Out, or maybe just a walk down the hill to the mailbox to get the day's mail.  Maybe a once-a-month get together with family.  Who knows.  It's one of the many "yet-to-be-determined" things about the transition we're currently in the midst of.

It takes a long time to make a house a home, say nothing of a new area, and until you do, you are bound to feel a bit unsettled.  I know this in my head, but it still does not stop the fears and the insecurities from sometimes trying to take hold at 3 a.m., telling me we've made some kind of huge mistake in electing to leave the familiar and strike out in search of something better.  But I know we haven't. We're just losing a whole phase of our life -- that of parents with young children -- and the new traditions, those of being parents with older kids, have not yet arrived.

But I know they're on their way, sure as the sun's going to rise tomorrow.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Here today, gone to Paso

This last week has been all about houses.  Getting this one inspected, from roof to floors, by various home inspectors.  And making and offer and having it accepted on a new house, west of here.  It's not a done deal; talk to anyone in real estate and they'll tell you sad tales of houses dropping out of escrow and back into the hands of their original owners, but the odds are in our favor that all will proceed smoothly and in a couple more months, we'll be starting to move things into our new home, which sits on a lovely hill overlooking the vineyards and the city off to the west.  

Our move has been a driving force in my life for the past two years.  I felt we needed to get out of this valley to provide our kids with better opportunities west of here (unemployment rate here:  17 percent.  Unemployment in San Luis Obispo County:  8 percent.  Need I say more?).  We wanted them to have access to clean air and a more outdoors-oriented lifestyle for the sake of their -- and our -- health.  My husband and I want to retire there and want to begin laying down our roots there now.  The reasons were many.  

But nonetheless, when we got the call that the offer we made on a house there had been accepted, my reaction was to feel as if the wind had been knocked out of me.  

I am not sure why that is.  I had always anticipated that moment being a little like winning the big prize on a game show, or at least getting a formal acknowledgement that Heaven approved our life transfer to a nicer place just this side of paradise.  Instead I hung my head in shock and, believe it or not, a feeling of fear.  Fear of the unknown.  And the realization that the next phase of life was truly beginning, which meant the current one was truly ending. 

And that was it.  I was feeling, I realized, a sadness that welled up from knowing this phase of life is almost over, and with it, my job as a full-time mom to a little boy who has grown into a fine young man.

I thought about my odd reaction for a long time afterwards.  And now that the dawn has broken on a new day, I feel a lot more positive about the whole thing.  I am happy it all worked out, and grateful to the Man Upstairs for having it happen the way it did. The timing  of it all could not be more blessed.  We will see our boys graduate, see all three kids to the end of the school year, and yet still escape before the endless heat and air pollution of  the valley's 7-month summer has really been with us long.

But I've also realized I won't necessarily go dancing out of this valley in a blaze of victory like I always thought I would when I finally got my ticket punched to leave.  Instead, I will leave in a somber, reflective and gently hopeful mood, an appropriate tone for the moment when you close one  of Life's books and begin another.  

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Invasion of the Privacy Snatchers

One of the things you have to get used to when you are moving is your privacy being invaded.  Start showing your home and for the hour you are gone, it's probable there are people not only looking at the furniture and things you've left out, but also what's in your closets, your cupboards and under your bathroom sink, as they inspect each one for storage space.  It's slightly embarrassing, but necessary if you want to sell your house.

Yesterday we had our home inspection and the inspector showed up, along with the buyer's realtor (which is expected) plus three extended family members of the buyers (which is not expected).  This means all five of these people opened every drawer and cupboard we own to make sure all was in working order.  It was uncomfortable for us as we drove away, knowing all these virtual strangers were going to get to know us VERY well over the next couple of hours, while we were away.

Many aspects of our lives in this world involve invasion of our privacy.  We fly, and someone we don't know is either going to view us on a superman-style X-ray screener, or we submit to a very personal pat down, or both.  At any given moment in a public place, someone could have their cellphone video camera on and we're being recorded without ever realizing it.  In short, much of what used to be our private life has become public.

That being said, I think on of the first things I'm going to check on when we move is our privacy.  And if we need to build a fence, we will do so.  A great-big fence. Yup, I'm sensing a definite privacy-binge coming on, once we are where we are going.

Monday, March 12, 2012

House tests

At this moment, there's pair of men walking around the house with clipboards and pointed sticks poking all around the inside and outside of the house.  It's our pest inspection, the first of two inspections we'll have on our home as it proceeds through the escrow process.  It's not a stress-free process; my home is taking a test and there's not much I can do to see that it passes with flying colors.  On top of this, we're also looking at homes and negotiating the buying process west of here, and making sure the regular things get done as well, like doing our taxes, paying bills, and keeping up with graduation and college preparations for our two boys who are high school seniors.

It's no wonder then, that at times I feel fundamentally tired, even when I've had 8 good hours of sleep.  I've been tempted to just take a day, pull the covers up to my chin and stay in bed, but that won't stop my mind from running all the scenarios through so I'm not really sure how helpful it would be.  So I've opted to stay busy instead, doing housework and laundry and trying to find some sanity in the minutiae of daily living. 

When done correctly, every task can be a prayer and a call to serenity.  Which is the very definition of faith -- being centered enough in the spiritual world to give you balance even when the tangible one seems to be flying apart at the seams.  

Friday, March 9, 2012

Homeless or Home Free?

The house we're living in now has a buyer and the escrow process has begun; if it all goes well 30 days from now we will not be responsible for paying a mortgage for the first time in about 20 years.  We'll be paying rent on this place until the owners are able to live in it, but when it comes down to brass tacks we will be homeless, in this case meaning we don't actually own the home we're living in.  But perhaps you could call it home free instead, free of the responsibilities that come with having your name on the deed.  After all, the news is filled with stories about how nice it is to be a renter instead of a homeowner in these perilous economic times.

And yet, I rented for many years back in my 20's and I know first hand that renting as a long-term lifestyle can be problematic.  That's because someone else has control over where you live.  They can ask you to leave for a variety of reasons, they can limit the pets you can have, whether or not you can hang pictures, smoke, play your music at 3 am, or invite someone to live with you.  Yes, you have the freedom to pack up and leave anytime, but your landlord can also raise your rent every year, to a point where you have to leave, and then they will raise it again and get someone else just like you to live there instead.

Renting is no picnic, although I anticipate for us our two months of renting our own home will not be a problem.  But unless you are in a transitory phase of your life, where you might take a job in another city at any given time, I can't see the advantage of giving up so much control to be a tenant on someone else's property, with them telling you not to paint the walls while taking a mighty tax break on letting you live in the place that legally, financially and practically will always belong to them.

Nope, we may be home free soon, but we won't really be home free in the true sense of the word until we've secured another house to buy -- where we can bring our pets, hang our pictures with molly bolts and stake a claim that says "this is our place now."  

But just like the dawn breaking in the east, I can see that day coming, and oh, it's going to be a happy one.  We're closer now than we've ever been.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Call me Madam

Showed the house for about the umpteenth time this morning.  Every time I do, it's the same routine.  I fix everything up, clean, tidy things up, make the kitchen and bathroom look like they do in model homes instead of real kitchens and bathrooms.  That means I take the soap dispensers, open shampoo bottles, recyclables, and slightly grungy sponges and worn bathroom rugs and put them away someplace for the hour that someone else is going to be looking around my house.

In short, I get it looking appetizing, and then I turn it over for someone to check out.  Basically, I am pimping my house.  Just like a madam in a house of ill-repute, I shove my sweet and innocent house towards strangers hoping someone wants to buy it.  

House Pimp.  My new profession.

Friday, March 2, 2012

He's back

I was finally able to re-capture the dove who has been living, free range, in our back yard for the last couple of years.  He got out way back then and I was unable to catch him.  But as he stayed around the back yard and ate out of the community bird feeder I have up, I didn't worry too much. 

But now that we're moving soon, it became important to catch him and relocate him with us.  After all, there's no guarantee the new owners will want to keep a bird feeder around, and since that's his main source of sustenance, leaving him here to potentially starve was not an option.  So this morning he was sitting on our doorstep and I easily re-captured him -- just picked him up.  That is not a good thing, because a healthy bird should not be so easy to catch.  So I have him in an isolation aviary, where he seems comfortable -- he is eating and is alert, yet still seems a bit sluggish.

This could mean several things:  He could be ill or have eaten something bad.  He could have flown into a window and is not quite himself again yet.  Or, since we've had storms and wind, he could just be tired of fending for himself and is ready to come out of the wind and rain and be protected once again.  No matter what, I am glad he is back under my care again.  While I loved watching him fly free, I agonized over what would happen to him once we left and his food source went away.  I see his return as an omen that we are, indeed, leaving soon.  And that's a very good omen to receive.