28 September 2009

I think I'm going to like it here...

It's been a few weeks since we picked up and moved, and as with any move, it has been interesting to find what things you take for granted in your life. Things like changing from driving almost entirely on tree lined county roads (the kind that make you forget how densely populated NJ is) to driving on roads that seem impossibly wide and brightly lit. I have nicely re-adjusted to a full view of the sky, and gorgeous sunsets.

And I am shifting gears, realizing that I'm just a bit further south than I've ever lived before, so that there are subtle cultural differences, along with the obvious ones. Obvious differences include the essentials of ordering iced tea - if you want it plain, you have to request "unsweet", otherwise, you're getting it sweet, except they don't call it "sweet" they just call it tea. I recall having a discussion about this with a friend from Alabama once; so apparently southern Indiana is definitely "southern". The fact that we are still mainly wearing summer clothes at the end of September should have been clue enough that it is "southern' here, but the tea thing totally clinched it.

We are at that point in a move where you start wondering "what have we done", and where you get hit full force with the fatigue that comes after several weeks of having nothing in life being habitual or mechanical. Everything requires thought, from figuring out where things are in the grocery, to managing without a large percentage of your clothes and cookware, to having every interaction be with a stranger (which for an introvert like me, is a huge energy drain).

So, I was sitting today watching the martial arts class my kids are taking in the homeschool co-op (which meets about 3 min away from our apartment). I hadn't really wanted to go. Which is not to say that I wasn't delighted to find this co-op, and even more delighted at how welcoming everyone was. It was just that I was tired, and really didn't feel like walking into yet another "new" situation. Which was silly of me.

While the kids were letting off steam on the mats, I found myself joining in conversations ranging from discussing the merits of the local Asian markets, the best way to cook squid, to the duck that had been in residence at one of the markets (it had unexpectedly hatched from an egg that was part of a shipment. The owner named it "Lucky" as in "you're lucky we didn't sell your egg to someone before you hatched".) As the class went on,conversation drifted to other topics: software to support collaborative projects and file sharing, to 4H clubs, and career development. And I got the scoop on the local ballet studios, too.

I'm looking forward to heading back next week. As are the kids. It'll take awhile to feel connected but each little step brings us that much closer.

23 September 2009

I was fine until Item #3...

My youngest was thinking today about his birthday (still several months away). He said, "Mom, for my birthday I would like":
  • "an outfit with cargo pants that looks good on me" (makes sense to me - wouldn't want one that looks bad!)
  • "a 'good guys' lego set" (not sure how I know if the lego people are 'good guys' guess that requires that I consult with his brothers)

then, after a bit of a pause...

  • "and..... a cairn terrier."
Hope he's good with two out of three ;-)

11 September 2009

It's the little things that matter...

Human felicity is produced not as much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen as by little advantages that occur every day. -- Benjamin Franklin

We woke up the other day with everyone at low ebb. The exhaustion of cleaning and packing and farewells (not to mention 841 miles of togetherness in car) had worn off and it felt like life had just hit the brakes bringing everything to painfully sudden stop.

Seven people and two dogs in a three bedroom second floor apartment is cozy at best. When you have kids who have spent the past 3 months running outside into the woods or climbing the rocks or playing on the swing set (endless supply of neighbor kids included), being cramped up without most of their toys and books, and no yard, no neighbor kids is a recipe for discouragement. And outings like "let's go look at more houses" or "time to go to Target to get some cleaning supplies" just don't really stir the imagination in the same way that "let's go hike at Jockey Hollow and then get cider and donuts at Wightman's Farms" would do. So I had a houseful of kids in a funk.

But little things can make a big difference.

In this case it was the public library which, providentially, is an easy 5 minute walk from our apartment. We stepped in the front door and YP simply stared for a moment: "The entry is bigger than our whole library in NJ!" She was right.

And then we walked in further and saw beautiful new library - brightly lit with huge windows and leading to the children's section there was a huge stained glass wall - all of a forest scene with all sorts of animals. Beautiful. To complete the scene, there was a little wooden footbridge going over illuminated glass floor tiles (for a river) into a children's section with comfy reading areas, a play area, and of course plenty of books. Not to mention a number of lively, happy children. Then we went over to the Teen section - even my most reluctant reader found books she liked. She also observed, "Mom, there are so many computers here!" She was right there were also two story windows letting in natural light, all sorts of comfortable chairs and desks, tables set up for chess or checkers, and a "wall of water" - a soothing place to sit next to and read.

After we checked out our books we went to the outside seating area and took the walking path around the little pond right next to the Library. All were smiling by the end of that little excursion and pleased to realize how easy it will be to return whenever we like.

Later in the day, after we picked up Kevin from school, we went over to the apartment swimming pool for a bit of welcome play time. Lots of laughing and silliness there.

A trip to the library, a quick splash in the pool - little things that matter. Especially, when you have just walked away from your well loved old home and good friends, and into a small apartment for an uncertain stretch of time before you can really start to re-create normal. And a good reminder to the mom of the family, that every day is composed of the little moments, and that even before we moved, that was what really made up life. So we are trying to use our moment well. And trying to appreciate little things just a little more: making a pan of brownies, playing a game of Uno or Clue, laughing together over an old episode of "Get Smart". Little things can either cheer the heart, or drag it down.

Makes me think of discussions in my Bible study about Mother Theresa's words about not doing great things, but doing little things with great love. Just like it is the little things that make happy family days, so it is little things that show love for God and bring a smile to His face. A welcome and timely reminder for me during these busy days.

08 September 2009


Our oldest is off to college. Anyone who knows me well would expect me to have been waxing sentimental at his departure. But life had other plans - being in the middle of moving halfway across the country has a way of reducing life to practicalities rather than sentimentalities.

I was fully ready to indulge in memories of the little boy who would pull the pans out of the kitchen cupboard and climb inside it as his "rocket ship" (and that was one skinny little cupboard; of course he was one skinny little boy). And the boy who would put on his "Jim Craig hat" (The Man from Snowy River) and chase imaginary horses around the back yard. The former little boy was seen, the last couple of nights before he left, tucked in bed at night reading the same series of books he'd read endlessly about 10 years earlier (The Great Brain books by Fitzgerald). But I was swamped with details to manage for the move - but not so may details that I didn't have time to appreciate those evenings before he took off for new adventures.

And I would normally be expected to dissolve into tears of sentiment and nostalgia at the thought of his last evening at home being spent with his younger brother along with M and P, the first two friends he made when we moved to that house almost 9 years before. Those same two boys came by again at 6:45 the next morning, and they were the ones to help him grab his bags and walk him out to the car and say goodbye. They could not have done anything more perfect. These two boys (now young men, much taller than I am) who spent hours playing in my yard, climbing the rock wall, and eating brownies; and in more recent years, were over playing basketball and x box, were a lifeline for my oldest in the first year after we moved in. And now they were here to say goodbye.

It was not just the goodbye of friends who will meet again at Christmas break. Just before the boys came by to see our oldest off, my son had to take a walk that I know very well - the walk of someone about to leave for school, who is also leaving their childhood home for the very last time. I took that same walk some 28 years ago - and I still remember every step of it. Having your family move at the same time you start school is a profound jolt. For me it worked very well - going off to school took the edge off the move, and I found myself pushed out of natural shyness as I formed a new home at the university. I'm hoping and praying that our oldest finds the same.

And the two young men, M and P who came by that morning are like extra sons who I loved watching grow up. And they were like sons to me one more time: two weeks later, they came by again, the night before the rest of the family was leaving, and they stayed and helped clean house until past 11:00. True friends to the very last; I always hoped that our home felt like another home to them, that they were always welcome - late or early, covered with mud, just as theywere. They made me feel that that was true by being there on that last night.

That was what made me cry - having two of my "other sons" taking care of us when we really needed it.

But still and all, we're in the process of moving - learning our way around, finding a house, church, doctors, sports, and all those other little details. That keeps me busy enough that there's not much time for sentiment. But there is always time to be thankful for some really good years when we had a house full of wonderful neighbor kids.

The last few days were full of goodbyes from M and P and the many other kids who have been part of our lives. That was a good reminder that while the house we left had some irritations that drove the parents crazy, for the kids it's not the perfect house, or lot that matters, in fact imperfection makes things a lot more welcoming. It is knowing that you will always be welcome whenever you drop by that matters.

So maybe I am taking a moment here to be a little sentimental, and hoping that old friends will feel welcome any time in our new home. But I'm also thinking that we need to be sure that our new house doesn't feel too perfect, and that folks know that they are always welcome, just as they are.