Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Crap and Stuff

First of all, apologies if you are offended by my use of the word crap!

So, we moved.  Everything.  All of it.  Sorted it, packed it, loaded it, stored it, unloaded it, unpacked it, and (for the most part) placed it.  Every single thing we owned.  Every one.  My mind had been boggled for some time over the fact that literally everything we owned had to be picked up and moved.  Think about it!  Of course there's the furniture, and the dishes, and the clothes-----but what about every pen, every paper clip, every piece of paper?  They have to be moved, every one of them.  Ugh.

I planned for this.  Every detail (I thought).  I orchestrated packing, and Goodwill, and trash events.  I figured out a labeling system for the boxes---hot pink duct tape, which just happened to be on the "hurricane preparedness tax-free weekend" when we bought it.  I found a website for room arrangements, so I could decide in advance where everything was to go.  I designated two closets at the old house for stuff that we would need in the interim, and would travel with us in the cars.  I got bottled water for the movers.  I had lists, and files, and folders, real and virtual, of all the details.  I was ready.

Then the truck showed up.  Seemed small to me, but they assured me their best packer was up to the task.  Wasn't long before they were agreeing with me.  They had anticipated our having about 75-100 boxes to move, and we had about 225.  Hmm.  So they had to call for another truck.  Does that scream, "We have too much stuff!!!", or not???   That's a lot of stuff.  Do you have any idea how much stuff is in 225 boxes???

When our first house burned in 1988, I remember being somewhat in shock, but trying to not overwhelm a 4-year-old.  For months he had been saying, "I'm afraid we'll have a fire," and we had always assured him we didn't think that would happen, but "if it did, the firemen would come and we'd be fine."  As I tucked him into a bed in my brother's house that first night, while the firefighters  were still on the scene fighting our fire, I told him that the important thing was that all the people were fine, and that we could get more "stuff."    In the weeks that followed that night, we spent a lot of time cleaning stuff, looking for stuff, crying over stuff, remembering stuff, buying stuff, missing stuff, replacing stuff----but all the while realizing it was JUST stuff.

Years later, we were moving from that house to our just-moved-away-from house, and in anticipation of that move, I wondered out loud if we would be happy.  I said to Cameron, "What if we don't like it there?  What if it doesn't feel like home?", to which he replied, "It WILL be home----we're taking all of our crap!" 

A week ago today, the movers arrived at our new house with both truckloads of stuff, and to be honest, probably a lot of crap.  But it's our stuff, our crap.  As the boxes and furniture piled higher and wider in each room, I wondered if it would ever feel like home, but once they left, we started to tackle it, box by box, room by room.  At times, we approached a box, hoping and praying there would only be a couple of large items in it, rather than a box full of knick-knacks.  At other times, it was like Christmas, finding things that had been packed away for months, and that we had forgotten we had.  But all the while, I kept wondering, "Why do we have so much stuff?" 

A friend once visited our house, and commented that she always loved the way everything in our house has significance.  I often think of that, and she's right about a lot of it.  We have wooden things my grandfather made, oil paint-by-numbers that several grandparents did, quilts made by Brian's grandmother, a collage of leaves from trees we planted in our first yard, a print of a piece of artwork made by Aaron's 8th grade class, another print of Grateful Hill Baptist Church in Jamaica, where Aaron took refuge during Hurricane Emily.  We have a printer's tray, full of tiny keepsakes, all of which had significance at some point, although for some of them that significance is forgotten.  There's the Snoopy from a pair of sunglasses that spent many months lodged in the cassette player in my car----wondered why tapes wouldn't go in.  There are the bells off of both boys toddler shoes, both sets of tubes from Aaron's ears (the Tube Fairy was kind enough to let us keep them!), the plug from the TV that Aaron cut off with scissors as a 3-year-old, a keychain Brian gave me the first year we were dating----lots of memories. 

So yes, my friend is probably right, most everything has significance.  And as we've found new places for it to reside in this latest move, we've reminisced about that significance.  I have managed to come up with one box (so far) of 'this isn't all that significant any more, or at least I can't remember why it was' that we can pass on, but the rest of it stays.  (Sorry kids, someday you'll have to sort it all out!)

So, it might be stuff to you, or even crap, but it's our stuff, and our crap, and it's our house, and that stuff and that crap make it our home, and fill it with memories.  And I'm just going to go out on a limb here, and guess that we're going to add more stuff, more crap, as the years go on----and we're OK with that. 

Come see us----we'll tell you the story behind all our crap and stuff!!

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20

New International Version (NIV)

18 This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot.19 Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lotand be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. 20 They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Who Are "They"?

So, like I said, we decided a few months ago to sell our house.  It was---and wasn't---a quick or an easy decision, but now, 4 months down the road, one house is sold, and within 12  hours we will be in our new one.

What a ride.  The time between a casual discussion over dinner of "what would it take to renovate this kitchen" to "we need to downsize, find a maintenance free house, first floor master" was less than 24 hours.  Then the initial thought of "we should talk to a realtor to find out what we need to do in----say----the next year to be ready to move" turned into trips to Lowe's, Goodwill, the attic, inspectors, repairs, and oh, by the way, wondering where in the world we were going to live!

Our realtor spent about 3 hours with us, telling us what we needed to do to put the house on the market.  Everything was built around a target buyer, in the 35-42 year old age range.  He told us "they" like Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn, clean lines, little color, modern, utilitarian, simple, lots of wood.  Hmmm.  Our house was more like Target, JCPenny, rounded corners, Williamsburg Blue, antique, functional, historical and meaningful, nostalgic----and with rugs to protect those wood floors.  So we changed everything for "them".  Rugs rolled up, banned  to the attic.  Cleared---"edited," he called it----all the personal stuff.  Excess furniture stored or donated.  Brass fixtures changed to brushed nickel or stainless.  Glass globes changed to alabaster---white, not the yellow ("they" don't like the yellow). Red flowers on the patio ("they" like red).  The list went on.  It took 6 weeks, but we got it on the market, right down to a cookbook on the counter, turned to an Italian dish recipe, because "they" were going to want to cook dinner in that home.   We put a bowl---not a basket, because "they" wouldn't like that---of lemons on the kitchen table, so "they" could imagine eating healthy there.  We left an open textbook on Cameron's desk, so that "they" would be able to imagine their children becoming great students, and getting into great colleges.  We hid tissues so "they" wouldn't imagine having a cold, plungers so "they" wouldn't have to think about those kinds of problems, and even the kitchen trash can, because "they" wouldn't want to see that.  We joked about it----"don't leave that out---'they' don't like that," or "Did you put the clothes in the washer?  'They' don't like dirty clothes."  Honestly, after all the work we did to get it ready for "them," we had a hard time feeling any fondness for the imagined "them."

But then it was listed.  "Lovely Colonial home, great location, excellent school district.  "They" didn't like it.  "They" wanted a transitional, open floor plan.  Then why did you come look at a colonial?  "They" didn't like hearing traffic on the nearby road.  "They" thought lights from cars entering the neighborhood might bother them.  We began to wonder if the right "they" even existed, but after 5 weeks, "they" arrived.  Two visits, and we had an offer.  

So who are "they"?  Do "they" fit the expected demographic?  From what we understand, yes.   We hope "they" will be very happy here, raising a family, and making memories, turning it from a house "they" bought, into their home.

And, I wonder what "they" think of us?  The house was so staged, it didn't look lived in.  There were no towels in the bathroom, no toiletries on the sink.  No dishes in the kitchen sink.  No mail on the counter.  No laundry baskets.  There was next to nothing that said, "a real family lives here, does normal, everyday stuff.  Nothing.  It was sterile.  We cleaned every night, tidied every morning, just for "them"----and I wonder if "they" even realized it, or if "they" thought we were terribly blah and boring.  Interesting thought.  What of our style was unlikeable by "them"?  Was there anything "they" did like?  Can't help but wonder.  It was our home, and now "they" have the chance to make it "their" home.  We wish "them" well.

Then I stop and wonder about the house we are buying.  Who was the target market?  Do we fit the demographic? We know in at least one way we do, since its a 55 and over neighborhood----well, one of us does, at least.  All that matters is that we know its what we were looking for, and we want to make it our home, so we are the right "them."

We have met the enemy, and he is us.

Psalm 71:18
Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.

Monday, July 1, 2013

What's next?

So where do we go from here?  We sold our house, and suddenly it was critical to figure out our next step.  We had narrowed down the neighborhood we liked, but there were very few houses coming available.  We had tried other areas, but nothing else felt right, so we decided to just wait.  This is likely to be the last house we buy before moving to "The Home," so we didn't want to settle. 

So let's talk about our homes thus far.  Our first was an apartment, and we weren't the only residents.  Edgar also lived with us.   He was there so much, we named him.  We don't know who or what he was, but he liked peanuts, and on one occasion we came home to find that all of our plants had been pulled up by the roots and were GONE.  Just dirt remained, all over the floor around the pots, but Edgar had, for whatever purpose, taken every plant.  We also were joined by lots of roaches----and I mean lots.  We were thrilled to leave there about 5 months.

Apartment #2 had different "features."  On day one, we discovered that a plumber had taken a shortcut with a pipe and just soldered over a leak, so that water ran down the pipe, through the floor, and into the kitchen light fixture.  Didn't take long for that glass globe to fill and crash to the floor.  Hello, maintenance?  Winters in that apartment were breezy----you could lay in bed at night and watch the curtains move from air leaks.  My father-in-law spent one night with us, and every time he walked past the thermostat, he bumped it up a little higher.  Not that it helped!

And then we bought/built our first house.  It was only a foundation when we saw it, but we fell in love with it.  A Cape Cod, two bedrooms and two baths, with an unfinished attic.  Oh, the memories we made there.  We brought both of our babies home to that house, and lived there 22 years.   Had some of the world's very best neighbors.  Part of the memory of that house wasn't pleasant, but bonded it to us nonetheless.  Six years after we bought it, and with a four-year-old, it was struck by lightning and destroyed by fire.  We stood and watched as the firefighters did everything they could to save what they could, and we spent the next 4 days sifting through the remains to salvage any pieces of our past that we could.  Friends stood by us, worked alongside us, and helped us through those horrible days.  As the months passed, we watched the house be rebuilt, with changes that made it different, yet better.  And we returned---home again.  Changed, the house and us, forever.

But we outgrew it.  It was oh-so-hard when we decided to leave there----for all of us.  But it was time.  Only moved 3 miles away, but it may as well have been across country.  We've tried to put our stamp on it, making it ours, but as I look back now, I'm not sure it has ever really been  "home."  Maybe because by the time we bought it one son was in college, and one left for college a few years later.  It just hasn't had the family memories that the first house did, or at least not for me.  And because of that it will be much easier to leave it.

We found a house.  Loved, loved, loved it,  but the timing wasn't right.  We hadn't sold ours, so we couldn't buy one.  We left that showing feeling frustrated, knowing we would have made an offer if only ours had sold.  But that house had a contract on it the very same night.  After that, everything paled in comparison.  Soon, we got an offer on ours, and found an apartment we could move to for a short-term.  We started making plans---what would go to the 1090 square foot apartment, what would go to storage.  Truth be told, we were kind of excited about the move to the apartment.  We could live simply, not bogged down with stuff, and responsibilities.  We could go to the pool, walk to the mall----we felt relaxed just thinking about it, after all the months of staging, and selling, and searching. 

But then, much to our surprise, that house we had seen and loved came back on the market.  On a Friday night.  We wrote an offer on Saturday, and by 8:00 AM Monday we had a deal.  Five and a half weeks to pack and move all of our past to our future.  More trips to Goodwill, checking with our kids to see what they wanted, sales on ebay, searches for boxes.  More boxes.  And more boxes.  Truly, we have a lot of stuff. 

It's exciting.  This time, it's just the two of us.  Our kids are married and settled, or on the verge of married and settled within a few months.  It's like we're starting over, in a way, but different than it was 33 years ago.   We are looking forward to having someone else cut the grass and clear the snow.  I'm especially looking forward to having a first floor bedroom, and not having to carry laundry up and down the stairs.  We're having fun thinking about where furniture will go, and what colors we might paint different rooms, and can we put a tile backsplash in the kitchen on our own.  We are looking forward to big family meals and Christmas Craft Sleepovers with Pa and Granna.  There are memories to be made, and we have a clean slate to create them in. 

It will be different, but it will be good.  We're older and wiser, we've been through a lot, we have lots of memories.  But we're ready for this next step.  I'm reminded of how Dr. David Burhans started our wedding ceremony, from the book of Ruth:

Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.  (Ruth 1:16)

God has cared for us through thick and thin, good and bad, and that won't change.  No need to worry about tomorrow, he's already got it in His hands. 

Matthew 6:25-34
 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Let's do this!  Let the adventure begin!