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As I pack boxes, clearing out my kitchen so that “someday” I can get those cabinets replaced (and a few other things taken care of besides) I find myself disheartened. There is so much to do that it can seem overwhelming. There isn’t even a start date, much less and end goal in sight.
I’m talking to contractors, talking with bankers, packing boxes and still the day-to-day life goes on. I have a lot to be grateful for. Many of my friends have been sick with the spring crud. Several families I know are experiencing the family member in the hospital in critical condition trauma . It’s not as though my kitchen is entirely worthless. I’ve managed to deliver a few meals since I started packing things away.
I’m grateful that I have the time to be helpful to my friends in need. I’m grateful to be healthy enough to face the tasks of the day. I’m grateful it’s not Orion in the hospital this time, or me. I’m grateful for the unseasonably warm weather. I’m grateful for the blossoms on my jasmine plant.
As I go through my things and pack them away I find myself unpacking old issues that I apparently still carry around. There have been moments where I’ve caught myself in a memory vortex. I’ve run into out dated cans and remembered my parents moving out of their “forever” house into their retirement home in the North Woods. I’ve come across baby spoons and sippy cups and remembered both the child who used them and the one who didn’t. I dug up cookie cutters and remembered back when I’d bake for large events.
Packing is bittersweet. I’m trying to keep it reasonable with a one box a day goal. I’m trying to remember this is an opportunity to declutter. I can use this to bring more tranquility into my home. But right now it doesn’t feel tranquil.
I’m shopping this week with a friend of my parents. I chauffeur her around to run errands. Occasionally I pick something up for myself along the way. Now I have to resist. I can’t be bringing new things in, knowing I’ll just be packing them away. New things are for later. Right now it’s time to pack up the things I’m keeping and to unpack the things it’s time to let go of.
March is a long month, and this week is only half way through. Best wishes for more sunshine and spring awakening!1
You all thought I was going to write about gun legislation didn’t you. I’m not. I’m trying to look at packing as a metaphor. It seems like a better approach than looking upon it as a chore.
We use the term baggage a lot to talk about all the “stuff” we carry with us through life. I suspect the reference is effective in part because so many people tend to over pack. In the era of weighed checked luggage where we pay $25 + per bag, that overpacking issue gets tackled head on.
I think about the ways people have packed in the past. Traveling by ship with steamer trunks is a little different than flying with a carry on tote. On the other side of it we’re going the distance for a weekend when back then it could be a month or more before even arriving at your destination. I look at old movies and watch actors skip down the road swinging those old suitcases. I’ve seen those suitcases in thrift stores. They’re tiny. They’re heavy!
Of course the actor has an empty suitcase, if it’s not a piece of plastic painted to look like one. But even back in those days most people had the clothes on their backs, one set to wash and one for church on Sunday. There were no shoes in those suitcases. If there were books it was probably just one small Bible. Jewelry for common people wasn’t particularly abundant either. I wonder how often they changed their underwear?
Those small suitcases (and this goes for carry on bags) are an issue as well. I’m not a small girl. I’m 5’10” and grossly overweight. For any one piece of clothing I get into my bag my daughter (5’8″ and fit) or my son (weighing under 100 lbs) can pack 2 or 3 of the same. Either of them can wear vintage clothing (although with my daughter it’s tougher for the height and shoulders). It speaks to that old fashioned luggage, people were smaller. I’m lucky if I can wear a vintage hat. ($25 to check that hatbox Ma’am.)
Then there is the issue of seasonal travel. The Twin Cities in Minnesota has the largest temperature range for its population density in the world. Any time of year the “average” temperatures give or take 20 degrees. It’s hard to pack one outfit that’s reasonable for both 75 degrees and 35 degrees Fahrenheit. Temps in that entire range are common any day in 6 months out of the year, and possible in all of them. (Well maybe our highest temperature ever in January was 69 degrees but our lowest in July was 24!) When traveling to multiple climate zones (or a crazy place like Minnesota) layers are essential and that means less room in the luggage. A sweater takes up a lot more space than a swimsuit!
I’ve done enough traveling that I do pack well and can travel lightly. I have trouble lifting or carrying a bag that weighs as much as that 50 lbs excess baggage limit. Still I’m often amazed at what I choose to include on any given trip. How much of my “good intentions” packing (sure I’ll work on that project while I’m away) do I ever really get to do? Other than reading on the plane, do I find myself reading in hotel rooms? How much of what I run to Target to grab before I go would be just as easy to pick up once I arrive?
I’m still reaching for the metaphor. I’m not sure what packing says about me, about us. I do feel better about doing it. Packing as a meditation……….
Thanks for listening.
Thanksgiving this year was at my sister’s house. She and her husband have a lovely space with a beautiful kitchen and it’s close to my parents so it’s the logical spot for family gatherings. I keep saying that I’m grateful that she’s the one doing the work!
My little sister and her family didn’t make it this year, which is no surprise. Karina also didn’t make it. She just got a promotion at work and was assigned the Thanksgiving Day buffet. She spent a lot of time with decorations and set up. Karina is a hard worker and she wanted to impress on her first event for the restaurant. She did a beautiful job and got lots of kudos. Hopefully she’ll learn fast how to delegate some of that work.
We missed Karina, but she sent up a cheesecake. She may not be baking at work, but her love for doing that hasn’t stopped. It was a great treat, especially for me. With a cinnamon allergy most pumpkin and apple pies are death to me.
Orion and I came up Wednesday evening and stayed at my parent’s house. We planned to spend the weekend visiting and helping with some of the housework. Just keeping up is getting harder for my parents. Wednesday’s mail brought 36 catalogues. Mom can’t get through them, and doesn’t really need anything. Unfortunately that depression era mentality makes it hard for her to just toss them without at least looking at them. I can sort through the pile, hand her 3 catalogues and send the rest to recycling.
Friday morning we all slept in a little bit. The plan was for a lazy day. Mom was thinking about sorting through one of her old jewelry boxes. She was also pretty sure there was a box of Christmas ornaments we had sorted that needed to be taken over to my sister’s Saturday for her and her kids. I got up and my Dad greeted me with, “Good Morning. You need to go home – today.”
The problem wasn’t me (thankfully), but the weather. We were having an unseasonable thaw. All that deer from hunting was frozen in coolers on the back porch. It wasn’t going to stay frozen based on the weather report. I needed to take it home and get it in my and Karina’s coolers!
So we spent the day packing, setting up leftovers into meals, and taking a memory lane trip through Mom’s jewelry box. We called Karina, who was back at work, and arranged to stay through close so she could haul and carry meat. At least we didn’t have to drive home though holiday traffic.
It all turned out well in the end. Sad that we were unable to spend more time with my folks, but happy to have a few “extra” days at home. I kept off the internet, didn’t tell anyone I was back, and started making space for the rest of the holiday season. I just have to figure out how I’m going to do the baking in my torn apart kitchen!
My car was due for an oil change. Overdue technically, but not by much. I have always been diligent about the oil change maintenance.
Thing is, technology is changed. When I first bought the car, the first time I took it in for an oil change I was told the rules are different. With new systems and synthetic oils instead of 3 months/3,000 miles it is annually or 10,000 miles. I can’t keep track of that!
But now I’m driving for Uber and Lyft and racking up the miles on my car. It seems like I’m back at about 3 months. Maybe that’s just my perception. Maybe I’m reaching for the familiar. In any case I took the car in for routine maintenance.
Which of course got me thinking about maintenance. In my home there are places that I’m pretty good about doing routine things: laundry, dishes, paying the bills. There are things that are beyond me (My kitchen cupboards are empty, but still almost a year later falling off the walls. Don’t talk to me about banks!) There are a lot of things that fall in between (like cleaning the oven and scrubbing the floors).
I thought about the blog I wrote last week, and reconnecting with friends. Relationships require a certain amount of maintenance as well. I’m not great about keeping in touch. I’m less likely to make a call just to say hi. On the other hand I’m likely to show up in an emergency or send a hand written note in a get well card. Different skills sets I suppose.
Then I thought about general health maintenance. The annual physicals got crammed in between Thanksgiving and New Years. The letters keep coming from the insurance companies about which of my prescriptions they’ve decided not to cover. I’m still doing allergy shots. I do have some long term maintenance things here. Mammograms and colonoscopies are not even annual events any more. The rules change.
I come back to daily practice. When I’m doing daily practice maintenance seems to get done, both on the long and short term. When I let daily practice slide, everything seems to go downhill along with it. When the rules change sometimes the daily practice needs to change, but that’s different from letting it go altogether.
Life happens. Entropy happens. Maintenance is necessary and unavoidable. So I work on keeping up the calendar and consulting it daily. I work on tucking in a small home maintenance job daily. I juggle my appointments and phone calls and try to be available for my friends.
I also remember that the alternative to maintenance is crisis. I don’t need that. Maintaining to avoid it is worth a little gratitude. Maybe a daily practice worth.
I had the opportunity this weekend to participate in a rescue mission. That’s not as dramatic as it sounds. My daughter, Karina, has quite the extended family given the divorces, the friends, the steps, and all the variations on “you are family to me.”
One of these family members has been in a difficult intimate relationship for some time. There is a history of isolation, abuse, and attempts to leave the relationship. After a conversation with Karina where she heard, “I want to come home” she went into action.
She arranged for transportation (costs covered), housing, a potential job opportunity and alerted the built-in support system of family and friends. There will be a bus card, people willing to help with transportation in town, bedding and toiletries and probably anything else as it comes up. When another call came, “I need to leave NOW”, Karina went into high gear and hopped in the car.
I went along, not only because it’s a long drive but also because she wanted back-up for anything she might find when she arrived. I have family in the area where we were headed. I called ahead. Without knowing ANY of the actual players, they stepped in as well.
My family members met us at the home of the person we picked up. We were taken out for dinner. We were offered any additional support we might need along the way. I got the bonus of being able to see family I haven’t been in contact with (outside of Facebook) for years.
Karina’s family member will be fine. They are overwhelmed, not only by making such a dramatic change but also by the outpouring of support. We also talked on the way home about how much of a difference THIS family member could be in supporting other of Karina’s extended family members who are struggling. We made it clear that even when you may be needy, you can also be needed.
Very few of us expect to have real support when we are desperate. Asking for one small thing is hard. Asking for planning, organization, execution and a lifeline is humbling at best.
I think we all have moments in our lives when this is exactly the kind of help we need. I know I have. I have been fortunate, awed, and overwhelmed on the occasions when my friends and family have swept in and just taken care of business.
When I had cancer last year my women’s group stepped up and made sure that I had the post surgery support I needed. They came by to check up on me, made sure I had food in the house, ran errands, and washed dishes. One of them brought me home from the hospital. Another took me out when I was going stir crazy. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I had no idea what I was going to do, but they clearly did.
The last time I had work done on my house, to increase accessibility for Orion, we needed to move out for 6 weeks. Cleaning and packing was beyond me. Again, I had friends come in and just do it. There was no judgement, no need for instruction or supervision, just support. I could focus on what I needed to take with me to the hotel, they took care of everything else. I knew I needed help, but never expected that level of support.
I am grateful that I have been able to count on my friends when I truly need help. I am grateful that I have learned to accept help when it is given. I’m grateful for compassion that has no judgement, simply does what needs to be done. I’m grateful for the opportunity to give back a small bit of what I have been given.
So I missed last week’s blog because I was still in California – giving my presentation. I had a great trip. I talked to some fabulous people. I learned some things and was inspired. I also hope I taught some things and was inspirational.
I think I’m pretty much back in Central Time, but even that’s challenging. My darling daughter wrenched her ankle in a bad fall coming home from work this weekend. 2am in Urgent Care doesn’t help me adjust. But the sun has been shining, the days have been warm. (In Minnesota if the snow is melting it’s warm – even at 39 degrees.)
Looking at traveling as part of a career I’m going to have to find a way to do the body/time adjustment thing a little more gracefully. At least I was kind to myself with scheduling. Aside from the unexpected (there was a trip to the Apple Genius Bar as well) I haven’t had any “extras” on the calendar. That’s about to change!
One of the things I got to do at Pantheacon was Tarot readings. When I do readings I always get good feedback from the clients. This was no exception. But I also had some down time with the cards, so I asked a question for myself about preparing for my presentation. That was a little frustrating. I was committed to being “on my game”. I wanted to be a professional level presenter. I’m invested in preparing to do my best. The cards kept saying, “Give it up. This is something you can’t prepare for.”
My time slot was unfortunate. I presented early in the morning on the last day of the convention. Most people are packing to check out or catching early flights. The audience I was targeting are, as a rule, worn out by this point. I had no idea what kind of crowd to expect and the cards were not helping.
However unhelpful, they were correct. I had a small enough group that sitting down and having a discussion, a personal conversation, was much more appropriate than a presentation. In that kind of setting my goal is always to address the specific needs of those present. It’s not something you can prepare for. You just have to know the material inside and out. I do and I thought the workshop went really well.
I didn’t take a lot of photos. I did get a lovely sashimi dinner one evening. My roommate (who I met when I arrived) was fabulous and we had a pleasant evening together over dinner as well. I sat in on conversations about accessibility for People of Color and for the Gender fluid community. I actually went to one of the ritual presentations (something I’ve not had the energy for in previous years) and enjoyed myself. I spent some time with old friends and made some new ones.
I still have to finish unpacking. I need to sort through all the cards I picked up and find new contacts on Facebook. I need to remember to check my email and gather all my receipts. It’s less than a month until the next one. At least I won’t have to change time zones!
I’m traveling again this week. I’m going to present a workshop at Pantheacon. Today I’m feeling just a little overwhelmed because there’s so much still to do!
I have arrangements for hotel and my flights are booked, but I’ve given no thought to getting back and forth from the airport. I’ve got Orion covered and his meds sorted, but I still have to arrange his transportation and think about what else to put in his bag.
Karina will be staying with Orion for at least some of the time I’m gone. I suppose that means rather than entirely emptying the refrigerator I should give some thought to what they might eat. Do I trust that Karina will keep Minnie off of my bed or do I pack away the good blankets?
Then there is my own packing! Do I bring books to sell? How many? Which ones? Can I do that and keep my luggage under the weight limits? Packing for the workshop I’m presenting, and preparing for that, is its own little piece of extra, but exciting.
I’m sure some of my stress is because of what happened last year. The workshop I’m giving is the one I was planning on doing then. Having to cancel at the last-minute because of https://lisaspiral.wordpress.com/2015/02/16/a-big-wrench/ was more than a little discombobulating. I’m grateful to be doing well, healthy and able to go back this year!
It’s 11 F here and the temps are dropping. The high today in San Jose is 77 F. Packing and planning for what to wear on the plane is an interesting logistical dilemma. I will definitely throw in a swimsuit! I may have to pack a winter coat as well. That depends a lot on how I get back and forth to the airport which puts me back at the beginning of this post.
I need to just breathe. I need to remember I’ve done this before, I’ll do it again. I need to trust that whatever decisions I make will be fine. I need to remember that if I forget anything there’s a good chance there are stores in California.
See you at Pantheacon!
Past blogs about my experiences at Pantheacon:
I’m posting late today because I went to get a haircut. You must understand that I am entirely incapable of maintaining my hair style in a traditional (cut every 6 weeks) kind of way. My last hair cut was in February.
I’m lucky to have hair that is flexible, adaptable and generally enviable. My regular readers have seen photos of me in the last 8 months and none of you have commented “Looking good, but you could use a haircut”. I’ll take the leap and say that mostly I haven’t looked like I needed one.
Thankfully, Jesse (my stylist at Hair Police) is pretty accepting of my cavalier attitude towards my hair. He believes me when my response to “what would you like?” is “That I don’t need to fuss with it.” We probably spend as much time chatting as he does actually cutting. That’s “normal” in the stylists chair, but it’s not typical for me.
In February I was getting the “new look” in preparation for flying to California and presenting at Pantheacon. (Go ahead and search that term out on my blog page. You’ll find lots of entries.) I didn’t get to go to San Jose, but the “new look” was helpful in the “keep your spirits up” department while I dealt with the cancer surgery.
Now I am again getting ready to travel. I’d like to make a good impression on the people I’ll meet. I’d like to do some networking with folks who speak on Spirituality for a living. I’d like to look good, approachable, and “put together”. I hope I’m not setting my bar too high!
Packing is still a challenge. I can get twice as many clothes into the suitcase as I used to! The problem is that I don’t have twice as many clothes that fit. I don’t even have the dreaded swimsuit in a size that won’t fall off if it gets damp. Usually before a trip I’m shopping for things like sample sized deodorant and toothpaste. This time it’s about what do I have to wear.
I’m grateful to the thrift stores. We went to one for Orion’s birthday and I picked up a few things for me as well. I’m grateful for my friends who clean out their closets and hand stuff my direction. I’m grateful for the women in my life (Karina and Carla) who are fond of “styling” and pick things out for me if they run across something that looks promising and size appropriate. (They have a better eye for my size than I do!) And of course I’m grateful to Jesse, not only for the haircut but also for taking the photo I promised:
Sadly I’m still going to have to shop for that swimming suit.
Every year on their birthdays I write my kids a letter. I don’t think either of them have ever seen them. I’m not sure any of them are legible to a generation accustomed to typeface rather than sloppy cursive. They are tucked away in baby books and old photo albums and who knows where around the house.
Since today is Karina’s birthday it seemed appropriate to write this year’s letter here. The “photo essay” is for you guys, but the letter is for her.
Wow! This has been a year of unexpected changes and challenges for you. You continue to impress and amaze me with your ability to maintain a level head and make good decisions in the face of adversity.
I started your year out with the challenge of my bariatric surgery. Growing up with your brother, I know you have issues with spending time in the hospital. Even so, you stepped up for me. Your calm (eye rolling) reminders kept the surgeon from canceling the procedure all together. You celebrated the outcome and assured me you knew it was going to be fine all along.
Only you would have found the best way to manage your time while I was in the hospital was to include walking the puppy with your visits. You arranged to work through the system and get permission to bring Minnie in to visit. It was a treat to see her (and you) and I’m sure it got me released faster.
You were so stressed you quit a job, which was a good decision. It was definitely time to move on. But I know it was hard for you to regroup and decide what you wanted to do next. The ups and downs of early 20’s relationships didn’t make it easier. I’m not sure I did either, but I always believed you’d figure it out.
Then you took on the family dynamic and held Christmas at your house. Family holiday dinners are a huge undertaking for anyone. Given your family, and all its extensions, the potential for disaster was huge. You were determined. Everyone would show up, feel welcomed, and have good food that suited their dietary needs. It was impressive. I know that post party feeling of exhaustion and wondering if it was worth it. Now you know you really can do anything you set your mind to!
My having cancer and a second surgery threw you for a loop. It didn’t help that you were just starting a new job, that looks like a perfect career move. Again you managed to juggle all the pieces and perform above expectation. Karina’s Korner was launched to rave reviews and I managed to attend my birthday dinner with very reasonable portion accommodations.
This last month has been yet another challenge with moving, and then having the apartment you were moving to fall through. Most of the people I know would have spent a week crying under the covers. You picked up, kept packing, arranged for a storage space and have already found a new, new apartment. Chances are you’ll like this one better in the end.
This year begins for you with a fresh start. You and Minnie will be settled into your new place before the end of the month. You’ve left your 2nd job behind and moved to a full-time position in your career field. Your creativity and management skills are being utilized and challenged in productive ways. You are ready to shine.
I can’t tell you how proud and impressed I am by you this year. You have an astounding resiliency. You have learned a lot about yourself through these trials and have a new appreciation for your own independence. Even when you’re hurting you are kind, and generous, and dependable.
I love you so much! I only wish you the best for the coming year. May all the hard work you’ve done bloom into joy and fulfillment.