Thursday, July 31, 2008

People are on the move Northward and it is becoming real to me now...

This is Minnehaha Falls, a place I love to go when I am feeling stressed. I actually took this picture last fall, but I still love looking at it. Water has always been soothing to me, and I go to water when I am troubled or in need of peace. I have never had to go too terribly far to find water here in MN. When I was a girl Lake Superior was just down the road; in the house I grew up in 2 lakes were three blocks away, north and east. As an adult I have lived these last 24 years within walking distance of Minnehaha Falls and creek, and the Mississippi River. I will miss these landmarks and places.

Spike is on his way to drop off his paper at school, and then he and the kids are headed north; his parents are on the train headed west. I am here thinking my thoughts, planning my day, and praying some. I am so excited to be joining my life to this wonderful man's, of making a home and a family with him out of the separate pieces of our past lives. It is like a quilt we are putting together: the individual patches being placed into the whole, then stitched together with love and attention to detail, making something stronger, more servicable than any one of the component parts alone. Each piece adding its own fire, color, flavor to the whole without losing any of that which makes it special and unique. I cannot wait!

I am emotional too. Yesterday I cried, over toys of all things, and making decisions on what is worth keeping, what is worth parting with. Bingo didn't have an opinion, at least according to him, and I was tired of making all the decisions for him. I wanted him to be definitive, only he couldn't/wouldn't be. And I started to cry. He got upset then, and told me it isn't a big deal, but in that moment it felt like it was! Even today, as I look at what I have on the list to accomplish before everyone arrives it feels overwhelming. It just isn't all gonna get done, and I cannot make it happen. So I have to let go a little. Ceesee said I don't have to take everything this trip--I can keep a corner in the basement to store things til next time, but I hate to do that to her. I wanted to have it all done and gone through. But I underestimated the time it would take to deal with everything, or the misc. things that would crop up and get in the way of my time, and I underestimated my own ambivalence about going through some of it as well... I am not in panic mode, not yet, but I do feel overwhelmed. I want this new life of mine with all my heart and being, but I also dread leaving my old life. It has been a safe, comfortable rut for the past 10 years, and while it has NEVER been easy life, it has been mine. Now everything is so unknown... Where am I gonna put everyone one for 5 days???? We are already full to the rafters just with the people who live here, and now we are adding in 5 more for a few days! Spike is bringing with a tent, and air mattresses, so that should help a little, and I am sure the kids will enjoy "roughing it" in the backyard... But I am stressing!

And on the practical side, it is not like I am going to the ends of the earth. I will be in cell phone, telephone, email, webcam, and IM distance; I can be back in under 2 hours by plane (fares allowing), and I can drive it in 10 hours... It's not like when GI Joe was in Iraq and I had to be constantly afraid of what might be happening and having only limited contact with him... I can easily chat with my "babies" whenever I need to. It is going to be fine, I know. It is just so very hard to let go.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

One less thing to worry about...

I haven't written about it sooner, because I felt like I needed to have all my facts in order before I wrote about it, but we had a major health concern pop up regarding Bingo. Last Wednesday I took him into the clinic after he discovered a lump on his chest that was very painful, which he had had for over a month and it wasn't going away or getting better. We saw a nurse practitioner who was unfamiliar to us, and she said that she thought the lump was hormonally related and should resolve itself with time. She was, however, very concerned by his concave chest, as well as how tall and skinny/scrawny he is, and she thought he showed the physical symptoms of Marfan Syndrome, a genetic disorder of the connective tissue. She wanted us to see a medical geneticist as soon as possible because of the risks of health complications that can occur with this disorder, and given my health insurance runs out on Thursday, we needed to make it happen fairly quickly. Fast forward to today: we saw the specialist at the University of Minnesota Pediatric Specialty Clinics, and she took a detailed history, and multiple measurements of his long bones especially. After crunching some numbers she came up with the news I was hoping to hear: his bones are all proportional to his height (in Marfan Syndrome they are unusually long), and given his vision is fine, she was reasonably sure he is just a tall skinny kid who happens to have a concave chest. She did suggest that we have an echocardiogram done to rule out the last symptom of Marfan's, that of heart difficulties, but given his other pre-requisites were within normal parameters, she felt there was no rush to get one, and we can wait to confer with the doctors at whatever new clinic we end up at in IL. I am sooooo relieved, you cannot even imagine! This worry and stress was unreal over the past week, and now I can focus on the rest of what I am trying to accomplish: packing, preparing for the wedding, and getting ready to move. Hallelujah!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A day of rest????

What is that? I got up early, although I admit to not having done too much today, and I am even thinking I may just veg out and cross stitch for a little while later this evening, or read my book (a long-awaited sequel in a series I have been following--it's a library book so I hope to have it done before the move).

Yesterday was such fun! We spent the morning finishing ups some things: I made the run to the local used clothing/items drop-off only to be told they no longer take small appliances, even if they work, then I went to the half-price book store, and got a whopping $2.00 for three boxes and a couple of bags of books and magazines ("they were common titles, they smelled musty--had been in the basement). Whoop-dee-dooo! I can buy a coffee at McDonalds! I guess my next load of books goes back on Craig's list where they will at least be taken by someone who will enjoy them! It was disappointing to say the least! Ceese and I then ran to the grocery store for some last minute party supplies, and we then got ready for our afternoon/evening of pampering and partying. These are some photos of the tables the girls set up/decorated for our evening, and my sweet daughter-in-law added balloons to the festivities while we were at the spa. We started out at the DaySpa in Edina, where I had a facial. The woman who did it was from Russia and was a lovely woman to talk to, but no-nonsense when it came to skin care. She made sure any blemishes were promptly eradicated, and it was NOT fun! The rest was tho' and the products were all organic and yummy smelling. I enjoyed the pampering! There were 5 of us at the spa, and I think next time I will have a massage after hearing my daughter and her friend rave about them...

Then it was off to pick up a dear friend from my college years, and head to my sister's where some of us changed into party clothes. We got to the restaurant, Don Pablos, in Richfield, for a wonderful mexican meal and Margarita's, and were seated by the most gorgeous host--he flirted and played along with us, and took this group shot before we were seated: From left to right, my best friend from high school, my oldest niece, my sister, my daughter's best friend, ME (in the oh so festive pink "Bride" cap, complete with a fall of pink ribbons!), my daughter, my dear friend from my college years, and my daughter-in-law. One other girlfriend was there as well, but was later in joining us. There were 9 of us total for the remainder of the evening, and we had such fun!

These are some closer pictures of me with my girlfriends. We laughed, we exchanged memories, and we joked around. JC and GI Joe picked us up in collector cars for a stylish ride back to the house (although for some of us, those old cars were the ones we rode in in our youth...) where we had an assortment of wine, cheese, crackers, and fresh fruit to snack on, and we played some amusing games that my daughter-in-law found on-line for us. In one of the games we had to blow up balloons as large as we could, only mine had holes in it--which everyone found highly amusing... I admit, we laughed, we shed a few tears, and we really enjoyed being together. It was just what I have been needing: a time to reconnect, and a time to just relax before I move into the unknown.
At the end of the night we said our goodnights, most of which took far longer than planned, and I love this picture of my daughter and I--she took it of us, a skill I have not mastered yet (although you can now really see my more "natural" hair color--less Barbie-doll-like). The "guys" joined the party around 10:30ish, and I was informed that when Spike is here next weekend there are plans to take him out for a drink or two, just the guys, so he doesn't feel left out of the fun. I am one very blessed woman, and I am counting down the days 'til I say "I do"!

Friday, July 25, 2008

The packing and cleaning continues...

and it feels like it is a never ending saga. The "slave driver" (also known as my beloved eldest child) took it upon herself to carry everything I need to sort through up to the dining room so that I would have room and company as I went through things (along with the not so subtle pressure of knowing that she is having a party in my honor tomorrow evening here so that things need to be finished up and cleared out). I have truthfully appreciated all her hard work--there is NO Way I could have even gotten through even half of it without her being the driving force behind me, as I tend to get lost in my memories as I go through things. For example we found the photo albums I made when I was in middle school and got my first camera, and we laughed ourselves silly at my "darling first haircut" (losing the length I had worn through most of elementary school) and my trend-setting LARGE plastic lensed glasses in tortise-shell... Oh, and the photos of my first love, a guy I dated all through high school and even got engaged to as I entered my freshman year of college (he dumped me for an exotic dancer he met in CA--go figure!)... I have found that some things really have tugged at my heartstrings and made my eyes well up as I look at the memories attached (baby clothes, special toys I bought the kids when money was tight, etc.). I know they are just material things, and I really don't NEED all of them... But I am not quite ready to let go either.

On a positive note though, here is the SW corner of the porch with the packed and labelled things as of noon--there have been additions to it, however, so this is just a portion of what is ready to go. I am glad I am not on one of those reorganizational shows where they force you to pare down with everyone watching--I would cry! I may downsize even more once I am safely in IL and can really evaluate what I have room to keep and what we need as far as combining household items, but just to prove I HAVE been getting rid of things, this next pic is a pile of the free/donation stuff prior to being put on the curb and listed on Craigs list, as well as 2 boxes of Bingo's toys (mostly action figures of various sorts and their accessories/acoutrements) that were happily accepted by a neighbor for her 6 children to enjoy (Bingo has been "living" there of late, helping babysit the youngest kids with his buddy Junior while the parents are at work, and being an "uncle role-model" to the kids as Junior's oldest sister just had her first baby. What didn't get scavanged from the boulevard was placed tonight into my van to be dropped off at the reuse donation center tomorrow, along with a huge load of books and magazines slated for half-price books... Ceesee is quite proud of me for hanging tough and making strong decisions in the face of nostalgia! I do have to laugh tho' at her keeping at least 6 ream-sized boxes full of harlequin romance novels that I have read and saved... Should keep her occupied for a bit I would say!
J-Fizzle has been adorable helping with everything we are doing... We were at the Mall of America on Thursday shopping for shoes for Auntie, a dress for Mommy, and clothes for him and "Uncle JC" for the wedding... As we stood in Nordstrom's Rack waiting for my daughter-in-law to try on dresses, J-fizzle pointed to the rack of bras next to us and loudly announced "You need new boobs Gram!" resulting in multiple chuckles and funny looks from the people around us. I posted this on an amusing website my daughter discovered, My entry is dated July 24, and entitled "but a new bra would be cheaper"... I laughed even harder seeing it in print! (I was both the recipient and the "overhearer").
Tonight the girls shipped me into the background because they are preparing for my bridal party tomorrow. We are going to a day spa for pampering, then out to dinner, and then back here for a wine tasting party. The girls were quite creative in making tags for each wine glass to personalize them for the guests, and it was fun watching them do them. Other than having a say in the roses we got (I have to admit I adore the roses Target sells--15-18 roses for $9.99 and they have a wonderful shelf-life!) I have been kept in the dark about the specifics they have in mind, and that is fine by me--I love surprises! Rumor has it there will be some games and door-prizes, along with good company and conversation. The girls are so excited to be doing this for me, and I am getting as much pleasure from watching them as I am in anticipating a day with my some of my dearest female friends and family members!

Other nice surprises of the past few days have included talking on the phone to old friends I have not spoken to in awhile. One was a dear friend from high school, while the other was a former day-care parent. She had to make me feel old by telling me "our" girl got married last friday in a small out door ceremony, and was off on her honeymoon to Belize. I was so happy to hear that, and I wish those kids well. I have so many memories I treasure of our years as "family" and being a daycare mom. It is funny, but I have stayed in touch with a number of my daycare families and have had the good fortune to be included in their life milestones. That continues to mean so much to me. I always said that God intended for me to mother lots of kids--it has been a "blessing" I am guessing that I at least didn't need to give birth to all of them in order to benefit from having them and their families in my life. I truly have much to be thankful for!

One last major milestone of today: we were sitting in the back yard and I had both babies on my lap on my hammock swing (J-fizzle pointing out "You gots a big lap Gram" because I always remind him it is big enought for both of them), when Lil Miss decided to get down and hold on to the edge of the swing. Her momma tried to get her to hold her finger, but Lil Miss wanted nothing to do with it, and she then proceeded to take about 5 independent steps towards the fence where she saw Aunt Ceesee walking back towards the front of the house. That was the farthest we have seen her walk alone and it was very exciting to all be witness to it. She was clueless as to why we were so excited, but she smiled and clapped anyway! She is just 13.5 months old!
All in all it has been a productive, if exhausting, few days, and I only have 6 more to finish everything up by if I plan to stay on schedule and be done by the time Spike and his family all arrive! If my slave-driver continues to keep up the pace she has set there should be no trouble at all! I will just need to have a good long rest once I reach IL! I guess I will try to get a good night's sleep tonight, because tomorrow we party!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Panic is beginning to set in...

as I realize how little time I truly have left to finish up all that needs to be done! I can happily say that Bingo is enjoying these last few days here, meeting up with friends, going swimming, and "hanging out"... Me? I am packing, running errands, and generally trying to figure out what is next on my list. My horrorscope (spelt that way for a reason) was fairly accurate this morning:

Dear Reina, Here is your horoscope for Wednesday, July 23: A big transition is about to happen, are you ready? The key is to remain flexible to all outcomes. Keep a calm head and don't fly off the handle. People are watching to see how you react. Remember to breathe.

Like a broken clock, sometimes they are accurate by chance!

For those of you who didn't hear, our drive back to Minneapolis had a bit of excitement to it. We were almost 50 miles into Iowa from Missouri when we heard the most god-awful bang and then rumbling sound. Bingo and I looked at each other with horror, and thought something had happened to the trailer... I eased my way onto the gravel shoulder, in the middle of no-where (think open flat fallow fields on all sides of Hwy 27 North), and Bingo popped out of the passenger side, only to pop his head back in the car and say "Holy crap mom--we blew up the tire so bad the bumper fell off!!!" I climbed out after him and looked, and sure enough, that radial tire was toast, and the bumper was lying askew, with the mudflap in the gravel. I knew I had a spare, a full sized tire, but I also knew I didn't have a jack--the one that came with the van was a POS and was soon tossed out by my earstwhile mechanics. I called JC to get his take on what to do, only to get his voicemail, so then I called Spike. At this point we were 5 hours north of Spike, but also 5 hours from Minneapolis and help. Spike looked up Iowa contact numbers for me to try while Bingo talked to his sister on the phone, and then I called the number given on Bingo's phone while he talked to Spike. In the mix JC also called, so I was never truly "alone"--just stuck on the side of the freeway with cars and semi's whizzing past! Oh, and it was an extremely hot, humid day, and we had run out of beverages...

The Iowa contact had me call 511, a waste of time in my book because all they did was transfer me from one recorded message to another, so I moved to the recommended plan B: call 911. The woman who took my call couldn't have been nicer! She understood that this was an emergency for me, and said she would try to locate someone to help me, and did I need a trooper, or a tow-truck? (I NEEDED Spike, but that was beside the point--heehee--they couldn't help me with that one.) I opted for the tow-truck, but when she called back she said she had a trooper on the way. So we sat, and we waited...and waited...and waited... Finally a handsome young officer showed up and turned on his lights (I felt safer already!) and as I was talking to him, Bingo was more concerned by the HUUUGGGEEE bee that was sitting on the back seat. No lie: this thing was the hugest bee I have ever seen! It was about an inch and a half long, about half to three-quarters of an inch in diameter, and had a stinger that was a visible half inch long! That sucker was very calmly sitting on the back of the chair, and seemed content to just stay there, despite our opening every door and window on the passenger side and rear of the van. The officer declined helping us to remove it, and I think Bingo was more afraid of the Bee than he was of being stranded on the side of the road...

The trooper got out his tiny scissor jack but expressed concern that it wouldn't be strong enough to lift/hold the van, and then he tried to loosen the lug nuts, without success. After straining and starting to sweat, he apologized profusely and offered to call me a wrecker, because he just didn't think he could manage it. He then retired to his air conditioned vehicle, where he enjoyed a cool drink while placing his phone call, and Bingo and I sat in the van and sweated... In the meantime, I screwed up my courage, grabbed the travel pillow, and tried to scare the bee out. Instead, he very contentedly stepped onto the pillow, so I very gingerly pulled the pillow out of the van and flicked it as hard as I could into the tall grass on the side of the road. I was Bingo's hero! Again, we waited, and waited, and sweated, and waited (the trooper continued to sit in his cool vehicle), and finally the wrecker pulled up. The driver was a Camel-smoking mechanic, who changed my tire like it was nothing, and we were quickly on our way! He gave us directions to the next gas station/truck stop where we filled up on cold drinks and snacks, and we again headed north, 2.5 hours later than we had planned for... Half an hour later we ran into a thunderstorm: thunder, lightening, and driving rain... Luckily we were in and out of it fairly quickly so it didn't delay us too much, but it was kinda scary. Spike pointed out that this was an omen stating that I was meant to stay in IL and not travel home, as in the past I always had horrid weather driving down to him, but good weather going home!

Yesterday I got up early and went for a walk around the lake with Princess and her dog Max. He gave us quite the workout, as there couldn't be a bush, tree, or bench left unsniffed... We returned home and I did a few things. Then it was off to get my hair done. I have been a "bright blonde", chemically enhanced as they say, for the better part of the past 2 years, and I have really loved it, but with the move, and being 600 miles from my favorite beautician, she and I decided to return my hair to it's more natural ashy blonde state. Three hours and a lot of aluminum later, I have lovely multishaded hair! I tried getting a decent picture using my camera phone, but it didn't really come out--I will try to get one on the regular camera so I can show it off. Today the plan is to maybe go with shopping for a dress for my beautiful daughter-in-law for the wedding, take Bingo to the clinic for a checkup later this afternoon, and still work on packing in between... I am tired thinking about it--and I haven't even gotten out of bed yet!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Heading back to Minneapolis for the last time...

and I will be glad I think to see the end of the road for a few weeks, even with all that is going to be going on back home.

We kept Saturday and Sunday fairly low-key. Saturday we went to the mall and Spike and I bought our wedding bands, simple white-gold circlets, and his girls and I shopped for dresses for the wedding. They each found something lovely, and best of all, on clearance! We then had a family dinner at "Tony's", a family style dining room here in town. The food was great, and I loved their salad and soup bar! Bingo and I took a walk when we got back and just sorta processed all that is going on--the changes, the fears, the excitement... He and I both have a lot of mixed feelings and while we are really looking forward to being here full time, it is still hard to say goodbye to all we have known and loved.

Sunday we we went to church and met all the parishoners who were at the 10 am service. That was amazing! They like the idea that I am a quilter/needlewoman and it sounds like I may be tapped for some upcoming projects once I am settled here. That would be fun to be apart of a church community again--especially one that is small, so everyone has a role. After lunch I took the three younger kids to the pool for the afternoon so Spike could study. The day was hot and sunny (high of 97) so the water felt heavenly, and we had a riot playing, splashing, and I even spent some time tanning (ok, burning, despite the sunscreen I put on--will definately have color for the wedding!) and reading. I brought a few different projects down to work on, but other than knitting a few rows on a sock, haven't done much for handwork at all. We had another early night last night as two of the kids had track practice early this morning (Bingo got up to go with, then decided he was too tired and went back to bed) and Spike had class. I am just sitting here eating a little breakfast and contemplating the drive back. I plan to be on the road in about a half hour.

I was going to drive Spike's CRX back to Minneapolis, but I chickened out. It needs brakes, although not desperately, but it is a manual, with manual steering, no working radio or cassette slot, and I have never driven it before. I am sure I could, but I dislike driving cars I am unfamiliar with on long drives. To me driving is a necessary evil, not something I do for pleasure, and I prefer the familiar to the unknown. I think (hope/pray) the van will do fine on the return trip, and besides, Spike and I were thinking we might need the room of the van over the wedding and transporting family around. I am also gonna bring the trailer back to JC so he has it, along with the straps and stuff so that it doesn't continue to grace Spike's front yard beside the garage. I am sure his neighbors will appreciate that.

Anyhow, we will be home sometime this evening, then on to packing and appointments and finalizing the move. I am tired just thinking about it!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

1800 miles later...

What a busy few days it has been! While Spike napped in preparation of our drive overnight, I took the kids to the pool for what was supposed to be a few hours. The pool is wonderful, with a great area set aside for little ones with fountains and slides and so forth. Unfortunately, they have an adults only swim that starts at 5 pm for an hour, so we only ended up having an hour to actually play there, but the water was wonderful and since the temps ranged from 96-102 degrees on the various billboard signs, it was a nice, refreshing diversion for us. We got back to the house, made dinner, and packed up the Pilot so we could head out.
It was really fun for me seeing some of the states I had never been in before, even if they were mostly in the dark! We hit the road just before 9 pm, CST, and travelled through Illinois, Kentucky (I was thrilled to discover Paducah is only about 3 hours away--American Quilt Museum and annual show, HERE I COME!!!!), Tennesee, North Carolina, and then South Carolina. We caught a glimpse of the Nashville skyline in the dark going, and in daylight coming back (it's prettier at night), and the Smokey Mountains were amazing! I took this photo just as the sun was coming up and we were driving east... Spike did most of the driving, although I took over for about an hour, only to discover I was driving through construction and the mountain roads that were quite curvey. Given I hate night driving, and I get nervous on unfamiliar roads it wasn't a good combination for me, and I was willing to give the wheel back about 4 am. We had just crossed over into North Carolina, and congratulating ourselves on having made such good time that we would arrive with an hour to spare, when low and behold, we saw flashing lights ahead of us... There, about 8 vehicles ahead of us, was a semi dumped on it side, and an assortment of rescue vehicles racing past us. Needless to say we came to a complete stop... for over 2 hours. From what we could tell there were fatalities involved (we had heard there was a woman trapped under the semi but nothing was ever moved or lifted that we saw), and sadly it looked like there were covered bodies under the cab. I tried to look up details of it but was unable to find any further information about it.

While waiting we got a call that GI Jane's mother had safely arrived so she was able to relay to her that we were NOT going to be arriving on time, despite our best efforts. We finally hit the gates of Ft Jackson about three hours after we had planned to be there, but happily met up with GI Jane and her mom. We wandered around the base because the recruits were not allowed off post, so we bowled, visited, and found fast food. We had made hotel reservations about an hour away further east from the post because everything closer had been booked solid for months, and we had travelled in two cars: us in one, and GI Jane's boyfriend and another couple, close friends of theirs, in the other, and had planned to all share a room. In talking about arrangements, it was discovered that GI Jane's mom had not made any arrangements for staying, and had actually planned to just sleep in her car, so we invited her as well to stay in our room where she would be safer and have access to full facilites. We didn't like the idea of her sleeping at a 24 hour gas station, even if it was close to post.

Sleeping arrangements were fun: we had two queen-sized beds and a pull-out sofa in the room, and the air mattress that was supposed to come with had been forgotten; we ended up with three on the floor, including Bingo, who decided to start his night sleeping in the closet... The kids enjoyed the pool and hot tub, and Spike and I stole about 20 minutes of quiet in the outdoor patio beside the pool room. We had 9 people sharing very close quarters and we all needed a little space by that point!

The next morning we split groups between showering, getting breakfast, and packing up the three vehicles, a effort worthy of military precision at 6 am! We drove the 70 miles back to the post, joining many others who also were arriving for graduation, and it took some patience to get in and get parked. Fortunately we made it with a little bit of time to spare, and we found seats high up in the bleachers. The ceremony itself was lovely--a whole lot bigger than the one my GI Joe had had at Ft Knox, but then there were many more graduating too. I admit, I was tearful at points: the pagentry, the pride, the patriotism... Bingo made a point of teasing me about it, but I admit it, I was proud and proud to be there! Afterwards, we found our recruit, and took pictures to commemorate the event. It was important to me that there be pictures of "our" girl with her parents and her family, so I mostly acted as camerawoman, although I did get to be in one as well--just wish it were more flattering of me!

We then spent a bit of time collecting her belongings so she had them loaded, got a couple of needed items at the PX, and headed back for home--another 800 mile drive... We again were in three cars: us, GI Jane and co. in her friend's car, and her mom, headed in another direction. We left post around 11 am CST, and drove and drove and drove... The daytime scenery was stunning: these are a couple of photos of the mountains during daylight.

These were all on I-40 through North Carolina and Tennessee. We arrived safely back in IL just after midnight this morning, tired and glad to be home. I can honestly say we had some moments of stress, but overall we weathered things well and it was a valuable trip and experience, one I will treasure having been included in. Bingo and I are finding our way, and while I know there are things that take time to figure out, it has been a great week. We have this weekend to rest and catch up on sleep a little, then we are headed back to MN on Monday. I figured out that by the time we reach Minneapolis, Bingo and I will have travelled over 4000 miles in a weeks time... Wow!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

We safely arrived!

This is the way the van looked, all loaded up, before we left on Monday morning. We were parked across the street from my house...
My daughter made the comment that we looked like the "Beverly Hillbillies" as we took off, and there were times along the way we felt that way--the breeze kept pulling up the tarp from the front driver's side and was flapping behind us, other drivers got frustrated with our being able to go no faster than 65 mph even when the speed was 70, and we needed to make frequent stops to check the straps and be sure things didn't overheat. My normal 10 hour drive took closer to 12, and I was so glad to arrive in one piece! My van did good, despite our fears for it, and JC and my GI Joe did an awesome job of strapping everything down for us. JC also patched some tire holes so we didn't need to worry about flats, GI Joe did a brake job, and they topped off all the fluids. Thanks to both of them the trip was relatively painless!

Yesterday was spent running around--getting Bingo a working phone (God Forbid he not have contact with friends!), lining up a kennel for the dogs for our two dates (today thru Saturday, and also for over the wedding), and finding a public fax machine... Then we had our premarital marriage counseling appointment. We were both laughing at some of the questions asked on the inventory (and not so surprisingly, we answered many of them in a similar manner as we recapped together last night)... Today Spike is in school while I organize the kids for our trip to SC (to go get GI Jane), and we will leave early evening--it is an 11.5 hour drive to get there, and we need to be there for 10 am Thursday; then the graduation on Friday, and a drive back to IL... As Spike's mom said in an email today, I will be happy to just settle in one place after everything is done! Then comes the fun of unpacking....

This is the way the dining room looks today... And this is the garage, after unloading last night... All from this first load. I hugged Spike after they got it all moved in and pointed out he did say he wanted me here--"lock, stock, and barrel..." Guess he got what he was asking for, cuz there is still a ton more to come: this is just the boxes from the main floor and part of the basement! I still have more boxes, clothes, and even some furniture to come down... Spike asked me if I wanted to start unpacking stuff now (meaning today) or wait til the weekend, and I said I would wait. Some of this I packed myself, and I know exactly what is what, but some of it was packed with loving care for me, and I am clueless as to what is in there--beyond knowing it has my breakables from the main floor and a few kitchen things. Oh well! I will figure it out and we will find room. And some paint--to repaint my book cases, and a sander apparently, so that Spike can refinish the table tops... He's happy--more power tools! I am asking myself if 10 days is going to be enough time to finish up, but I think it will be ok... Just got to be sure I am taking things a step at a time, and remembering to relax and ask for help. I don't have to do it all alone.

Monday, July 14, 2008

It was packing day for the first load to go down south, and what a day it was. My Princess' Prince was amazing in all he did, loading the van and the trailer for me, and I am in awe of all we are taking--as well as overwhelmed by all that is left to still go through and pack up... I had plenty of help getting it into the vehicles, but if I am honest I am a bit nervous about driving with the trailer behind me... I have driven with a trailer exactly once in my life, to pull a tow dolly up to pick up a car and then bring it back to the city. That was in another lifetime, and it brings back bad memories to think about it.

I had to laugh though because my grandson,

J-Fizzle, thought the huge cardboard boxes were just perfect for a house, and he pulled the cover closed over himself, and proceeded to snore robustly! When we tented the top for him he liked that even better, and played house until we needed him to move so we could insert boxes of stuff... He was insistant that he was coming "comin' witchooo gram", and I surely wish he could this trip, but there is too much going on to take a little person with me. The kids finished loading the trailer up and strapping it down for me, even covering it with a tarp to prevent rain damage (although they are forecasting hot, sunny skies all the way from MN to IL for the drive). I just hope nothing blows off or falls off or gets damaged--my prized Baltimore Album Quilt is in there along with the remaining border to be appliqued, as well as my lovely TW "Lady of Shallott", which has been a work in process as well for more years than I care to count... All my needlework stuff is also packet--cross stitch stuff, knitting stuff, fabrics, patterns and magazines--my prize possessions in other words! Please God, let me drive safely and have little traffic! The Princess was stating I would look like the Beverly Hillbillies driving down there, which I probably will, and Mom is being a worry wart about my driving with the trailer. I am sure I will do fine--have made the drive so many times now I feel confident with it. I will post a pic of the loaded trailer tomorrow before we pull out. I have been told not to drive faster than 5 mph, and to brake slower than usual--I generally give myself plenty of time and space anyhow--and to turn wide. I think I can handle that--just hope the vehicles around me are understanding of a blonde woman from MN driving a trailer for the first time... Now I just need to get some sleep before we leave--oh yeah, and pack. I have the laundry done, but not in the suitcase as yet... Clothes are a necessity with multiple teens running around and travel in the offing... And makeup, and meds, and hygiene stuff, and books, and a craft project, and a video game system or 2... yeah pack... Haven't I been doing enough packing of late???!!!??

On a side note, I finished my last night at work. Many of the kids were wonderful about my leaving and took the time to talk with me personally and say goodbye, and I got many hugs. I bought 3 2-qt rubbermaid juice containers, and a glass soda bottle, and filled them with an assortment of gorgeous roses: orange, yellow, and a few red ones, and wrote notes to the admin staff, both units, and individually to each kid and the center nurse. I set the gifts for the kids by their doors for the morning, and left the bouquets on each desk, along with the note and magnet. The one for ad staff I put in the coffee lounge for everyone to see. I spend the last 40 mins I was there going over stuff with my replacement, and then he walked me out and locked the door behind me. I didn't cry although I did tear up with a couple of the kids. I am now officially done. I was really touched that one of the newest staff came and talked personally to me and thanked me for being a mentor. That meant a lot, and there were sub staff on whom I had not seen in months that it was nice to chat with one last time. Anyhow, that chapter of my life is now closed, and I feel like I left on a classy note. I am proud of myself for how I handled it, and now I am ready to move on. It is definitely time!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The last day of my old life...

and then onto the first day of the rest of my life! In 24 hours I will be done with working at a place I have been for the past 15+ years. I am having a lot of feelings about it, some happy, some bittersweet, some sad. I have devoted myself to providing the best care that I could to our clients, to being a role model and support for both the clients and the staff, and to being true to my values and who I am as an individual. I have not always succeeded, and my clinical skills over the last few years especially have not been utilized to their full potential, but I gave them my all. In offering all I had, I was successful in so many ways--just not monetarily. It was/is a non-profit organization, and the salary could have been better, but it provided enough that we could get by, and because of my longevity there, they were flexible with the needs of my family, of which I have been the sole breadwinner for for so many years.

I am disappointed that they chose not to acknowledge my accomplishments and contributions to the center in a more public or monetary manner. There was a cookout for three of us who were leaving at the same time, but there was no public "thank you for your years of service" speech offered, nor was there any gift beyond a card given; the attendance at the cookout seemed half-hearted--not all of the staff were there, despite being invited to do so, and it just felt flat. There were people there who were important to me, and they were wonderful: they know what I have offered, where I have come from, and how I have grown and changed within the field and the roles I have played, but it would have been nice to be acknowledged--either as a thank you for your service, or at the very least, a congratulations on your upcoming wedding and best wishes for your future... It all felt superficial and generic. And it hurt. I am not sure what I expected with it, but it wasn't what I had hoped for, and even tonight, the night before my last shift, there was nothing on my desk--no plant, no gift card, no anything to acknowledge that I was leaving. It made me sad. I have bought note cards to write individual messages to each of the kids, along with a statement of "what it means to be human". I will be leaving one for each child, along with a "blo-pop" for each of them by their doors when I leave tomorrow night, and I plan to get some roses from Target ($9.99 for a bunch) and put some on each unit and on the front desk, along with notes for the admin staff and the unit staff. As mom said, just because they chose to not treat me well, doesn't mean I cannot leave with class. I am not going to miss the position, but I AM going to miss the kids, both past and present, whose lives I know I have touched and had an impact on... That is where the true rewards have been for me, and it is what I will treasure.

It is going to be weird leaving the center for the last time at midnight tomorrow night: leaving my massive ring of keys behind, having someone else lock the doors behind me... I have NEVER, not since I was 11 years old, been without employment. I have always had a job lined up that I was moving to from the one I was leaving, and now, there isn't one pre-arranged... No interviews lined up, no applications already in... I am not sure if it feels good or bad yet. It just feels weird to think about. I am kinda scared, and kinda exhilarated, both at the same time. The scary part is that my fiance doesn't have gainful employment as yet either, so we are gonna be struggling some for bit. I know I am qualified to walk into a number of jobs--I just hope and pray that something will fall into place so that I can help him to make ends meet.

I am also grieving all the changes taking place on the home front. My eldest child is buying my house and we close the end of the month. She is excited to be taking over the responsibilities and the changes that need to occur, and I am relieved to be out from under that debt (being caught in the sub-prime mortgage scandal was a nightmare for me financially--I felt like I was drowning and couldn't keep above water! Her mortgage balance will be higher than what I owed, but her interest rate is half of what I was paying with my rotten credit, so ultimately she can afford to do this whereas I could not, not anymore. I fought so hard to keep this roof over our heads when their father left us, and I tried so hard to be sure we had what we needed. It is a relief to know that she will have this house and love it and care for it, and that I can still "come home" to visit when ever I want. It's just the packing up of 23.5 years of memories, and of seeing things change. It isn't mine any more. I really have no say in what happens now, or how things get done. And while I am not being pushed out the door, I sorta feel like I am. I feel so overwhelmed and lost sometimes, and I don't even know where to begin. I don't want to take it all with me, but I want time to go through it all, to say goodbye and part with things on my terms--not be rushed into split second decisions and be "done for". Tonight my youngest was asked to go through some of his things and decide what he wanted to keep or let go of, and he melted down--said he doesn't want to pack and move, doesn't want to leave... and yet he has also been looking forward to it, to the point he wanted to stay south when I came home and just come back in time for the wedding! He and I are in the same space, I think. We want to be in our new lives but we also want to keep our old ones. When I talked to him tonight he said he felt like he was in the way here at home with all the changes. I am feeling that way too. I really no longer have a space that is totally my own--my bedroom is community property and everyone is in here; but I am sure it is even worse for Bingo--he doesn't even have a bedroom anymore! He has clothes between the basement and my room, and he sleeps on the couch. He has no privacy either--sometimes he hangs with me in my room just to have some peace and space. He has actually been "living" at his buddy's house, where he is loved and accepted, because he feels like he has a place and there are "things to do". Poor kid, I worry so about how all this is going to play out for both of us.

I am so in love with my fiance: he is everything I have dreamed of in a partner and spouse. He is NOT perfect by any means, and I am finding little things that irritate me at times, but they are so outweighed by the fact that he loves me and he wants to share his life with me. We are so good together, and I am so hopeful things will be all that I want. He makes me happy, and he wants to take care of me, and love me, and make my life better. He has already done that just by being himself--and being there for me when I have needed him. I know I can rely on him to listen and to talk things out with me, and I am confident that we are both going into this marriage for the same reasons. We are friends first and foremost, as well as partners, companions, soul mates... We share the same values and goals... I cannot wait to be with this man for the rest of my life, despite being scared to move 600 miles away from everyone I know and love. He is offering me a fresh start at life, a new beginning, and I am grasping it with both hands. As hokey as it sounds, the first time we kissed I knew I had "come home", and that sense has not evaporated or changed in these last 10 months. Things have happened quickly, and I worry that maybe we should have taken more time, but everyone is supportive of this, of us; his kids accept me and my family, and he accepts my kids and my family. We are gonna be the freaking Brady Bunch: 3 boys, 3 girls, plus 2 grand babies, a daughter-in-law, and maybe someday son-in-law on both sides; plus 3 cats and 3 dogs... Life is NOT gonna be boring--that is for sure!

It is gonna be difficult for me to say goodbye to my family, to my city. I love the lakes and the parkways of home, I love my house and my backyard and my neighborhood; I love the convenience of being able to go downtown or to the malls with little difficulty, of having reliable mass transportation and getting places in a matter of minutes versus long commutes; I am going to miss my grand babies desperately, and I am going to miss my kids and my sibs and my mom and the assorted nieces and nephews... It is so very hard to say goodbye to my family and friends--sure I don't see many of them all that often--it is more communicating by email or phone calls as it is, and that won't change, but to be 600 miles/10 hours away from my kids--right now we are all under one roof and to leave them is breaking my heart on one level, even as I rejoice that I am gaining a larger family. I pray my mom's health stays good, and my "older/younger brother" remains healthy...I have no idea what I will do if something happens when I am so far away. For 46 years I have been no more that 15 minutes away. To leave my yard and my gardens... I have been promised we will make frequent trips back here, and that eventually we will come back to stay... At least right now I really want that. But maybe we (Bingo and I) will both become settled down there and home will take on a new meaning. That is partially the reason for this blog--to have a way to communicate with my extended family, share pictures, etc all in one spot, rather than sending multiple emails... Or maybe I will just keep this just for me. Who knows. This is just my trial run at this format.

I am realistic: I know things are not gonna be easy for any of us. My Princess needs to figure out how to be less black and white and be flexible with those she loves; she has some work ahead of her to do in turning this house into a home for herself and those she loves; my GI Joe needs to settle down and find his way to create a home for his family as well. I worry so about both of them, but as a dear mentor said, I have given them roots and guidance; now I have to trust them to learn and grown as adults, which includes making their own mistakes if need be, and figuring out how to manage without Mom right there to jump in... God it is so hard to step back and watch sometimes, especially when I see them hurting and worried and stressed. But I too need to accept this chance of happiness for me, of seeing my dreams and goals move forward. I have always put them first--even now I am for my youngest in a way, because he needs a strong male role model in his live, and Spike will be that for him. I am so grateful I have him in my life! Bingo deserves to have a father-figure who will be there for him in all sense of the word. I know things are not gonna be easy for Bingo and I either as we enter an already established household and family structure. There is gonna need to be conversations, compromise, and patience, not always a strong suit of teenagers. And then there will be the drama of the ex's--both his and mine to contend with at times, and differing expectations or parenting styles... Yeah, it is gonna be interesting.

So I finish work in less than 24 hours, I turn in my keys, and I get a good-night's sleep, because Monday is the first day of the rest of my life. Bingo and I are headed south to our new home with a load of belongings, to stay for a week, start organizing where we fit in, and celebrate being a family unit. We will collect Spike's oldest from basic training mid week, which means we will have our first family road trip over distance, we will begin our premarital counselling, and we will fine-tune some of our plans--both for the wedding and real life! Then after 7 days of activity and possible confusion Bingo and I will head back north to finish packing, prepare for the wedding, and say our goodbyes.

Life is definitely bittersweet,stressful, and chaotic at the moment!