The Monday Post, Vol. 46 — Settling In!

Moving is something I’ve done more than three dozen times in my life (including local moves), but it’s not my favorite activity by far, and this time was no exception. Everything started out well organized, but as we got closer to the actual moving day I stopped marking boxes and began putting items anywhere they would fit and throwing more things away than I expected to. It was also a physically exhausting move because of so many trips up and down stairs and out a fair distance to the borrowed car and back, catch-as-catch-can meals for a few days and lack of sleep the last few nights before moving day.

However, the movers showed up bright and early on moving day and loaded and unloaded everything with amazing speed and efficiency. In no time at all I was standing in my new apartment, surrounded by boxes waiting to be opened, and I hardly knew where to start.

Progress was slow, but two things had to be accomplished if nothing else got done, and that was feeding the dogs and setting up my computer. Later that afternoon I decided to lie down “just for a minute” and when I woke up it was dark. I got up and ate and put a few more things away and fell back into bed until the next morning.

I made more progress then, and today unpacked the final box. The apartment will be a work in progress for some time, however; there will be a bit more furniture later on, but I don’t want to fill the empty spaces with just anything right off the bat, or cover the walls with less-than-thoughtful picture arrangements.

On Friday I went out to run errands and do a bit of exploring of my new neighborhood. I learned quickly that driving was not the most efficient way to get around, that on-street parking was the most prevalent type, and that the streets were narrower and shorter than they looked on Google Maps street view. Although I’m still in Portland, the east side feels so different from the west. Streets are straight, neighborhoods compact, so many people walking everywhere, many with dogs, cyclists tooling by. Although the streets were busy at midday, no one seemed in a great hurry and everyone seemed to have time to smile and exchange pleasantries and bits of conversation.

On my way home, I had a bit more time left on the Zipcar and decided to take a drive farther east to see where a particular farmer’s market was located. Over a steep rise and starting down the other side, I was suddenly rewarded with a spectacular view of Mount Hood, and I looked frantically for a place to pull over and stop to gaze at it awhile, but could find none; I’ll be back to that location soon, however.

So I’m settling in and it’s great to be here!

The Monday Post, Vol. 44 — Storytelling…

Some past thoughts from early 2009:

The actor/director Ron Howard and I are very close in age; in fact, he is exactly 3 months younger than I am. So in watching him on TV at any given time I can accurately guess how old I was and what I was doing at that time. When he started in movies, I was playing with Tinkertoys and hadn’t yet entered kindergarten. When he began starring as “Opie” on The Andy Griffith Show, I was in the first grade and having the measles. When “American Graffiti” was first shown, I was still a new (and way too young) bride who had just arrived the day before in a new town with my Navy husband. When “Happy Days” first aired, I was happy too, for the most part, but pondering my choice of a future career, as I’d rather railroaded my first choice at that time (to become an art teacher) by marrying too soon. I can also recall what I was doing when each of his directorial efforts was released, but you get my point.

I recently watched the TCM documentary, “Ron Howard: 50 Years In Film,” so he’s been on my mind as of late. To me, he has the best job of all: to tell stories on film according to his vision, with the money and clout to make the finest and most enduring films he can. Storytelling is what it’s all about.

After the documentary, there was the short subject that replays from time to time, taking us rapidly through 100 years of filmmaking, 100 years of storytelling. This short subject always makes me misty-eyed, because the stories told in these films, as a body of work, so completely describe the human condition, reflecting so clearly who we are, and showing what we contribute that most enhances the world we live in: our stories.

Storytelling HereWithout storytelling, we couldn’t live. We could exist, but only as shells of ourselves. We write stories every day: when we come home and relate what happened during the day to our families, we’re writing. When we talk on the phone with a friend and describe who we saw and where and when, we’re writing. When we persuade someone to go out on a date, convince the boss we need a raise, coax a child to eat Brussels sprouts, reason with a creditor over a past due payment, sell a car, urge a friend, counsel a teen — we’re writing stories.

This is what I love about blogging. When we share stories, we enhance each others’ lives. And I share some of the stories I read with my daughter and sister and friends, who relate those stories to others, and on and on it goes. Lives are enhanced by a laugh or a bit of wisdom because someone took the time to post a blog entry.

We are our stories; resolve to increasingly share more of yours!

The Monday Post, Vol. 42 — Packing Yields a Nice Surprise!

With less than a month to go before my daughter and I move to our respective new homes, packing has begun in earnest now, so as not to leave everything until the last minute. Last Friday I was clearing out the bottom compartment of the cabinet we’d been using for a printer stand and came across some software CDs and a plain CD in a case, labeled, “Pictures — Full.” We have a few other CDs with pictures and I thought I’d seen all we had, but I popped this CD into the computer and was amazed. There were all the pictures I thought had been lost! All of Basil’s baby pictures, all the pictures of Bailey and Dexter from when they were only 8 weeks old, pictures of our nice house in Florida, of holidays and birthdays and Diana’s graduation candid shots. There were also some older pictures that I’d scanned and I still have the actual pictures themselves, but so many were only digital shots that I didn’t have copies of anywhere else. I quickly uploaded them onto my computer and also onto a flash drive, for safekeeping this time.

As I looked through these pictures and reminisced, I began feeling a greater appreciation for those past years. Yes, toward the end of our time in Florida, in particular, prior to my separation and subsequent divorce, there were many bad times and painful memories. Though I’d tried to remember the good times, the bad memories always outweighed the good ones. But these pictures brought back many happy moments I hadn’t thought about in years, and I began to have a new, more positive outlook on them.

Before I get back to more packing and preparation, let me share some random favorite photos with you; please feel free to click on the pictures to see most of them LARGER:

There were over 1200 missing pictures, and I could go on and on, but I’ll leave you with this short video of Bailey and Dexter romping when they were what looks like about 4 months of age. Enjoy!

The Monday Post, Vol. 40 — What Would You Take?

A couple of days ago a friend of mine posted on Facebook a subject posed by her pastor recently:  “If you were in a situation where you had to flee from where you were and were pressed for time, what would you take with you and what would you leave behind?”

Considering that question reminded me of the time, nearly 20 years ago, when our apartment building in Florida caught on fire, due to a kitchen fire in one of the apartments on the floor below. It was around 9 p.m. and I had opened the dishwasher when I noticed what I thought at first was steam coming out of it, but it turned out to be smoke, just a little at first. Thinking there was a malfunction, I went to turn off the power to the dishwasher at the breaker box, but the smoke kept coming, and was increasing.

We heard some shouting outside then and went to the living room windows, seeing people running toward the building, yelling and pointing, and it was then we saw smoke pouring from the apartment below and over one from ours. My daughter had already gone to bed, but she was up in a flash, ready to run in her pajamas. Our cat! He was terrified and hiding under the bed, up against the wall, and neither my then-husband or I could reach him, but Diana was small enough to dive under the bed and grab him; he responded by raking a deep gash down her chest as she struggled to hold his squirming body.

My purse happened to be on the table near the door and I grabbed that as I flew by and we were out the door and down the stairs as fast as we could run, running away from the building a fair distance before turning around. The fire department arrived then and we put the cat in the car and watched as the firemen fought the blaze. The Red Cross appeared on the scene a short time later and gave us all vouchers for a night’s motel stay while we figured out what to do next.

We spent a week in a motel while we arranged for a new apartment, and I was allowed to go into our old apartment briefly under supervision, though the structure was considered unsafe. Our furniture could not be salvaged, but I was able to rescue some personal items and gathered things as fast as I could, feeling nervous that the floor under my feet might give way at any time.

So after that we did what everyone else has to do in such a situation; we started over. What did I take during the emergency? I took my purse only because it was handy; my then-husband, daughter, cat and I getting out were the only things that really mattered. Had my purse not been by the door, I would have let it go.

Since that fire, I’ve always carefully thought about fire escape routes in any apartment or house I’ve lived in. In my new apartment I will have the option of escaping through the door to the hallway or down the steps from my section of balcony, which is good to know. My only thought will be grabbing my little dog and hurrying away, should such a calamity happen. Hopefully I’d take my purse, but it wouldn’t be essential. As we hear every now and then, it’s only life that can’t be replaced. How true that is!

The Monday Post, Vol. 39 — So This Is 60…

When I turned 30, I hardly noticed; I had just had a baby two months before, and I was working part-time and hanging on until the day my little daughter slept through the night so I could feel like a human being again.

When I turned 40, all I could think of was how Grace Kelly always said that after 40 it was all downhill for a woman. I had a few white hairs, and though I was working out at the gym regularly and feeling great, I approached that birthday with a good share of dread.

When I turned 50, again I didn’t pay much attention. I mean, 50 was now the new 30, right? And I was busy with my work, my writing and designing business, being a beleaguered wife and a mom to my own mother. I was mildly annoyed at the notification from AARP that I was now old enough to join, but ignored it for a time. I wasn’t old enough for THAT.

My past decade has been a busy one, filled with many changes; a drawn-out separation and divorce, my mother’s passing, moving across the country, the loss of dear pets, becoming a vegetarian and then vegan, preparing to face the future on my own.

So I turned 60 a few days ago. I did dread this birthday because, after all, 60 sounds so…OLD. I tend to think of my life in thirds; 0-30, 30-60, 60-90. Now I’m in the last third. I do expect to live to be 90, as the people in my family, thankfully, tend to live a long time. I have some physical annoyances like anyone, but luckily I’ve never been seriously ill or injured, I don’t smoke or drink, and I eat a plant-based diet. I could use more exercise, and more sleep, but I expect to be getting more of both very soon, the exercise because I’m moving where I’ll be doing a lot more walking, and sleep because, well, I’ll just discipline myself to do that! My problem with sleep is not that I can’t sleep, it’s just that I get interested in things and put off going to bed. Not helpful!

The day after my birthday my daughter asked, “Well, how does it feel to be 60?” At the time I said it didn’t feel much different from 59, but actually, it feels…FINE. I feel lucky to have made it this far, and am reminded of friends and classmates who have not been so fortunate. I actually feel excited, because I’m on the verge of enjoying my new life very much, and there are so many things I want to do!

So this is 60…and it’s quite all right!

The Monday Post, Vol. 38 — Moving On!

To me it feels good to have 2013 ending soon; it’s been a roller coaster of a year, with some high points but more devastating low points, not just for me but for my daughter and several other people we know. The highlight of the year was my daughter’s becoming engaged in September to be married ; however, the lowest point had to be when we lost dear Basil in May. Both my daughter and I are getting ready to step into new life situations; 2013 feels like an old skin to be shed as we move into 2014, and I am very much looking forward to moving on.

I was recently able to reserve the studio apartment I wanted, in the building I wanted, in the neighborhood I wanted, so I’m extremely pleased about that. Though there are stores and parks and such where I live now that I will miss a bit, there is much to explore in my new area. The availability of a great deal of good public transportation will make it much easier to enjoy the life I envisioned upon moving to Portland in the first place, a more artistic life than I’m living currently. So these next very few weeks will be about getting ready to move and then setting up my new place across town.

I am still on my quest to “live small” and simplify my life where I can. Downsizing to a much smaller place means I’ll need only a modicum of furniture. I’ve decided to forego a TV for now, as once the Super Bowl is over I would rarely have the TV on, preferring to watch movies/programs online. I love dishes and glassware, but I won’t be keeping too much of that on hand, as my kitchen cabinet space will be quite limited. It’s actually fun to think about how to be creative with the space I will have, and it will be a work in progress for a time, I’m sure.

I haven’t planned on making New Year’s resolutions this year, as I simply plan to keep moving forward, do more of what I enjoy, and meet 2014 with expectations of it being a new adventure, the beginning of a new chapter in my life.

Here’s to a Happy New Year for you and yours!

The Monday Post, Vol. 36 — A Tiny Christmas This Year

I wasn’t going to do anything at all about Christmas this year. I am working Christmas and New Year’s, my daughter and I are both getting ready to move to our respective new residences in a very few weeks, and with planning and packing I really didn’t want to do anything special for the holidays.

About a week ago my daughter asked, “Well, when are you going to put up the tree?” I shook my head. “I’m not putting up a tree this year.” She looked horrified, as if I’d run over a nest of baby squirrels, and exclaimed, “Not putting up a tree? But you always put up a tree! It’s Christmas!” She and her fiance had just finished trimming the tree at his apartment and she expected me to have a similar level of enthusiasm for starting the decorating process.

“Not this year. I don’t want to drag out that big tree that takes 5 strings of lights and all those ornaments, and especially I don’t want to have to take it down and pack it all away with everything else I have to pack.” I was firm in my decision. “I’ll put it up AND take it down,” she promised. “Fine, if you want to do it, but I’m not getting involved,” was my final statement. But she caught a cold and I was too busy, and we remained without a tree at home.

But on watching a few Christmas movies, seeing the decorations in the stores, listening to Christmas music and experiencing the seasonal goodwill in the area, I began to think I ought to do something for Christmas after all. Then I remembered the small tabletop tree we used as an extra decoration and last evening hunted for it in the closet and brought it downstairs. As it was rather like a “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree in appearance, I decided to give it a face lift.

The little tree came with a sparse string of white lights, so I quickly unwound those from the branches. I got out one of the multicolored strands we use for the big tree and several red and gold shiny baubles to replace the small brushed silver plastic ornaments that came with the little tree. My daughter came home while I was rummaging for something to help stabilize the tree, as it tended to topple easily. She came up with the idea of using her lighthouse cookie jar to give the base some extra support and winding the lights around both the tree and the lighthouse, and the effect was charming (click on the thumbnail for a larger photo).

So it’s not that I won’t be doing anything at all for Christmas, really. I’ll be going to church on Christmas Eve, and then spending time with my daughter and her fiance at his home. We’ll exchange a few gifts, and my daughter may prepare something special for dinner Christmas Day. It’ll just be a scaled-down Christmas…a tiny Christmas. But quite all right, stress-free and enjoyable indeed.

I hope all of you are enjoying your Christmas season as well!