Going after beer

I followed a beer truck today. I found myself right behind it as I traveled to Winterport to Rachel's house. It had the word "Heineken" painted in large letters across the back, and I, though a nondrinker, know enough of cultural things to recognize that this is a brand of beer.

Beer was my enemy for many years, because Ed is a recovering alcoholic. I say recovering, because that's what they tell us to say, but as he hasn't had a drink since 1984, I would say he has recovered. At any rate, I did some reminiscing as I drove a few miles behind this beer truck. I thought about life's many surprises, the unexpected twists and turns, things that make our lives turn out in the oddest, wildest, most incredible ways. One minute I marry an active alcoholic college dropout, and before I know it, I'm sleeping with a sober United Methodist pastor with a Master's degree. Go figure.

The move from Tennessee to Maine still has the power to shock me. One day I'm a pastor's wife, moving around from parish to parish, and before I know it, I live in Maine - Maine! - in a 3-story Victorian house and I become a medical transcriptionist. Whoa - when did that happen?

For that matter, I still can't believe I'm the mother of 2 kids! I can't believe I'm 52!

Oh, the things I have learned - things I never would have planned, but now I can't imagine life without them. At one point in my life, I learned to quilt. At another point, I learned to play the Celtic harp. This year I even went sea kayaking! All of these changes have affected my life in a substantial way. Some I faced with fear, some with excitement, some just with a sense of wonder.

The popularity of horoscopes and fortune-telling is evidence that some people have an innate desire to know their futures. Not me. I certainly wouldn't want to look forward to the bad things, and I wouldn't want to miss the joyous surprise of the good things.

And I'm still traveling. Not behind the beer truck anymore, but on the move nonetheless. Tonight is the last night we spend in our house, then we continue our journey in another location. Life is just full of surprises - and through gentle tears, I am smiling.

Who? Where? What? Why? How?

On an MT chat board I frequent, one participant is moving this week also. Her son had an accident - he dropped a pickle jar on his foot, severing a tendon, and after a trip to the ER, now has to see a specialist. Another MT responds: Someone once asked me what I thought hell would be like. I replied without hesitation, "It would be moving forever."

I can see that. Truth be told, we have been lucky, though. So far, no accidents or unexpected mishaps. A cost overrun on the new house yesterday, which originally would have run $2000, has been contained to $700, so that's somewhat of a relief.

So where's the hell? I think it in our sense of place, where we are, where are possessions are. The sense of discombobulation, disorder, disarray, disorganization, disturbance - I guess if you add "dis" to a word, I can use it.

I read an article in Good Housekeeping about a boy born blind and deaf. He goes to a special school where the first step of their daily routine is to get oriented. Each blind and deaf child comes through the door and stands with his/her back against a table. From that position, they all have learned where the various parts of the room are located, and therefore, feel comfortable and safe in their situation.

We are lacking that starting point of backing up to a solid object to get our bearings. Instead, moving is kind of like floating like a leaf - never knowing if you will land in the middle of the street or on the roof of a skyscraper. Our clothes are in boxes. My toothpaste has disappeared again. Every once in a while, I have to trudge down to the garage, our temporary storage area, and look through everything to find a certain box - either to retrieve something or add something to it.

On top of that, we are really moving twice. Once to Rachel's, once to the new house. Things have to be packed accordingly. This time next week, I'll have my first long commute. No telling what that will be like.

Ed likes to joke that for the next few weeks, we will be officially homeless. So that means we have the joy of mail forwarding. We forward our mail from Lincoln Street to Rachel's house in Winterport. When we get a new address and mailbox, we will simultaneously forward THAT mail to Rachel's. Then when we move in, we will have the Lincoln St. mail forwarded to our new house, and have any mail being sent to Rachel's (from various change-of-address forms I have filled out) forwarded to our new house....

Someone put a table over here. I need to lean against it!

Scarier than Halloween...

These last few days before the move find us understandably stressed to the max. With the many impending logistical decisions - not to mention a yard sale tomorrow with a whole group of strangers walking around our lawn evaluating our possessions - we are only functioning thanks to extensive (very specific) lists. I'm surprised I don't have a list entry that says, "Brush your teeth."

Of course, I expected all that. Who wouldn't? Any sane human being with life experience realizes the anxiety involved in moving, and the closer the move date, the greater the anxiety. That's not the problem.

So what scares me? The move itself? No. The possible problems with the construction of the new house? No. The possibility that I might not have enough time to handle the necessary details? No. The temporary displacement to Rachel's house? No.

I realized this week that what scares me is the downsizing itself. Oh, it's easy to talk the talk. I've blogged for two years about how downsizing is the only logical way to go - good for our bank account, good for the environment, good for our lives. And that's truly the way I feel. But the time for talking has passed. We are at the starting gate for downsizing, and it's getting time to walk the walk.

As they say, what sounds easy on paper is not always easy to implement. We've been laughing with family and acquaintances that "we are going from a 4000-plus-square-foot house to a 1500-square-foot house" but I just realized - deep down - the scary part of downsizing. And it's almost upon us.

Oh, we're not going to be in a shack. Far from it. We're not moving to the bush in Africa; we're not going to live in a log cabin where we have to fetch water from the well. We will have quite pleasant accommodations in our new home. But all the little conveniences we have gotten so used to in the last ten years are simply going to vanish along with this big Victorian house.

A walk-in closet the size of a small room - with 8 long shelves, 2 of them wrapping around the perimeter. An oversized garage with automatic door openers. 2-minute commute to work. A place to actually sit down to put on my makeup. Unlimited drawers. Unlimited book storage. Cable internet. A sewing room so big that my cutting table can be extended all the time. A mailbox at the front door.

We will have no garage. The famous Maine winters will wreak havoc on our cars, and I will have to spend a good amount of time in the morning scraping ice and shoveling my car out of the snow. We will have to bring in groceries through all kinds of nasty weather. I am inheriting a 7-mile commute over roads that are not always adequately plowed. I will have no shelves in the closet, no unlimited hanging space. No chair in the bathroom. Very few places for our beloved books. Probably no high-speed internet. I will have a sewing room, but it will also serve as my office, so it will be tight. The mailbox is 1/4 mile away from the house, living in a communal setting with the mailboxes of our neighbors.

It has finally hit home. We are actually downsizing. We are scaling back on our way of life. We will be a little more cramped, a lot more inconvenienced, and our way of living as we have known it for 10 years will be dramatically altered. That's a scary adjustment. I am pretty confident that we will meet the challenge successfully, but it's no coincidence that closing is on Halloween. BOO!

Agony of Motherhood

My kids make my life hard. In the first place, they make me spend hours on end in deep thought, wondering how I got so lucky. In the second place, they have ruined my makeup because they make me laugh so hard I have tears running down my face.

In the third place, they leave me stranded in society, because when all my coworkers gripe about their children, I never have anything to add to the conversation.

The complainers certainly don't want to hear how proud I am of my kids. They definitely would not be enthused to hear of all my kids' accomplishments. They would be disappointed to hear how I dearly love and appreciate both my son-in-law and daughter-in-law. They would be miffed to hear that my kids are smart, well adjusted, creative, tolerant, and compassionate. They would be jealous to hear me say that I love my children dearly, I light up when I get to talk to them and see them.

How dare my kids lead me to the point of total happiness and joy?! Life is good.

The Stages of Letting Go

This is to all you fellow downsizers: It gets easier.

When we first started downsizing two years ago, our first task was to go through all our hundreds of books. They took up a whole room in the attic of this Victorian, and we knew our new smaller house would not have space for them. My first blog post ever was about the angst of having to get rid of our precious books.

The first part of choosing which books to purge was not as difficult as I thought. I could easily see several books that were out of date for the subject, or books in which my interest had waned. Those I weeded out quickly without remorse. Apathy was the theme of the day.

The second round of elimination was harder. The easy decisions had been made, and now we were down to the group of books that we might have liked to have kept, but knew we wouldn't have room for. The books in this category were the "might" books. "I might read this again one day..." I auditioned each book, just like a game show contestant. Each book had an opportunity to present its case to me. I tried to be fair, but I agonized over letting go. We ended up selling some and giving away even more, but each one was a piece of us that we couldn't take with us. The only way I could get through the whole paring down situation was to consider the fact that we are only caretakers, not owners, of things in this world, that we had had possession of these books long enough, and it was time to relinquish them to others who will also enjoy them. It was difficult, but doable.

Today was the third round of elimination. Now, think about it. This is the group of books that have made through the first two rounds. They are the creme de la creme. Did I waver? Did I stall? Did I approach the boxes with trepidation? Surprise! I was ruthless! "You're all winners," I said, surveying what could have been a group of pageant contestants. "But, alas, some of you are moving on to the yard sale. Thank you for your service. Goodbye."

Then I tossed. And tossed. And tossed some more. I did not weep - I actually relished the cleanout. For you see, the ensuing two years since the initial decision to downsize have changed me. In that time, I have learned to let go. I have learned more of what my priorities are. I have learned the value of things replaceable and things irreplaceable. I have learned what "cherish" really means. I have learned how not to keep things just out of habit or convenience. I have learned not to buy something just because "I want it."

I still can't complain. Even with the number of yard sale items growing every day, I still am keeping a lot of books - Lincoln books, Agatha Christie books, books that were given to me as gifts by people I love - so I really feel I'm not sacrificing that much. I'm just weeding the garden so that the true flowers can grow and be appreciated.

Of course, after I gave an emotional speech to Ed about what I've learned about simplicity in the last couple of years, he just grinned. "Nah," he said. "It's because you finally realized how little our new house will be!" OK, that too.

As time grows nearer to hand over the keys, I will soon be facing the greatest obstacle to my emotional stability - the turning over of the house itself. I fear the books pale in comparison.

Keeping up

Call the electric company and set a cancel date. Call the phone company and do likewise. Call cable company for same. Call the garbage pickup company and schedule last pickup. Change billing addresses. Forward mail. Pick up absentee ballot. Rent U-Haul truck. Rent storage container. Advertise yard sale. Check on new lot preparation. Make a list. Make another list. Make several lists. Lose the lists. Find the lists.

These are just some of the inevitable tasks before us this week as our countdown to the big move continues. I have heard enough voices saying "Press 1 for this, press 2 for that, press 3 for something else..." to last me a lifetime. I have marked up my calendars so that I can barely decipher anything. I have finally bit the bullet and started to go through all my hundreds of quilt magazines to decide which ones I want to keep and which ones I am willing to part with. (Ed has been trying to get me to do that for years, and I insisted I wanted to keep all of them. However, when I cleared out a storage area in the house where I had stored the magazines, even I realized I had way too many!)

We did find and visit our new "City Hall" in Hancock. When I stopped by the post office to ask where City Hall was, the poor lady laughed for ten minutes. "City Hall?" she said as she tried to catch her breath. "We don't have cities around here!" She wiped her eyes. "You mean Town Hall? It's the next road to the right." So sue me. I'm originally from Memphis. Town Hall, Shmown Hall. It's all the same - it's where you go to find out rules and regulations of your new habitat.

Town Hall of Hancock is in an old small building which also houses the Hancock Historical Society upstairs. (I almost typed "Hancock Hysterical Society" because I'm still thinking about the laughing post office worker.) It's a one-stop shop. We will get the usual things there like dog licenses. We will pay our taxes. We will vote. All in its one room. We'll definitely be in a small town. Makes Ellsworth, our current town, seem like the big city.

All in all, I'm going crazy. When others are hunkering down for the winter and looking forward to Halloween, we're busy unhunkering down in preparation for closing on Halloween.

I hear people compare busy, frustrating times like these as being on a treadmill. You work and huff and puff but don't get anywhere.

Oh, we're getting somewhere, all right. I have little balls of chocolate candy in my mouth, my sleeve, my pockets, and under my hat. Yes, like the photo above, I feel less like I'm on a treadmill and more like I'm Lucy and Ethel trying to keep up on the candy factory assembly line. As the move date approaches, those candies keep coming faster and faster and it's all I can do to stuff them anywhere I can.

It's now about three weeks until move date. I think I'm going to have a eat a chocolate or two to get through this!