Seven Reasons to Love Moving

moving photo

I’m not moving again. Not yet, anyway.

The condo that I’m renting is being sold this week—which means another move may be on the horizon. Fortunately, I’m on a lease through the summer, but there is a great big pile of unknowns waiting for me when that lease expires.

I hate unknowns. Especially these:

  • Are the new owners slumlords or decent humans? Will they fix the broken stuff or let the place fall apart?
  • How high will they raise my rent? Will I be able to afford to stay?
  • Will they renew my lease?
  • If they don’t renew my lease, will I be able to find a new place that will accept my dogs?

As a chronic worrier, I find that sometimes, the most helpful way to deal with worrying is to work through the worst-case scenario. In this instance, the worst case is that I won’t be able to afford the new rent or they will not renew my lease. In either case, I will have to move. Again.

My fourth move in five years. Here come the voices in my head:

Cheerful Meg to Worrywart Meg: C’mon! It won’t be so bad! Moving is kind of cool!

Worrywart Meg: Moving SUCKS, you idiot.

But you know what? The secret truth is that Cheerful Meg, though obnoxious, is not entirely full of crap. I do kind of like moving. At least, there are a few things I like about it. And since I may not have a choice, I may as well focus on the good parts.

What good parts, you ask?

Allow me to itemize them for you:

  1. Purging. I love to get rid of shit. I feel righteous, self-controlled—rich, even—when I get rid of things. Before a move, I go on an epic purge of my belongings. Pare down to only the essential six or eight sets of cloth napkins for all my imaginary future dinner parties. Whittle away all but my truly indispensible twelve tubs of holiday decorations. Ruthlessly eliminate extraneous craft supplies until only the most critical shades of glitter remain. I am no hoarder! I am organized! A lean, mean domestic machine!
  2. Anticipation of decorating. Decorating is even better than purging. Decorating is one of my very favorite things, and moving to a new place means I get to decorate EVERY ROOM. Before I move, I measure each room in my new space and actually draw out a floor plan to scale, and then I cut out little paper furniture and rearrange everything a bazillion times. I cannot overemphasize the amount of satisfaction this gives me. It’s downright freakish. I pick paint colors (most of which are never used) and draw sketches and pour over the Craigslist used furniture section in a sort of feverish HGTV hallucination. It’s glorious.
  3. Moving day love. To all my friends and family who have helped me move so many times, I apologize for this part. I know everyone hates to help people move. But you know what? It’s pretty touching that they love me enough to do it. And they’re even pleasant about it and show up with food and useful gifts and make hilarious jokes all day so it becomes kind of fun. If I could spare them the opportunity to love me like that, I would…but if I can’t, well, I’m going to just enjoy the love. Right?
  4. Excuse to eat lots of pizza. As a thank you for the moving help, I buy pizza and beer. And I consume a ton of it. Since I’ve burned 348,964 calories lugging boxes and furniture around, I can eat that pizza with no guilt. Guilt-free gratitude pizza, anyone? Come help me move!
  5. Harnessing of Superpower. Have you ever noticed what an insane amount of work you accomplish on moving day, and the days just before and after? Apparently I have a secret reserve of energy that is only tapped in the event of a move, and it allows me to tirelessly plow through purging, packing, moving, cleaning, unpacking, and more cleaning at a speed that is quite staggering. Sometimes when I can’t muster the energy to wash the dishes or dust the bookcase, I try to channel that Moving Day Superpower. Never works. That power is only accessible on Moving Day. So you have to enjoy it while you can.
  6. Excuse to be messy. Thanks to a lifetime of conditioning by my mother, I have deep and abiding shame when someone comes over and my house is messy… unless I’m about to move or have just moved. In that case, free pass! Come on in! Just pull up a box to this grimy table piled with junk and have some of this leftover gratitude pizza!
  7. And of course, a fresh start. When there are boxes piled in every corner, but at last the beds are made and you can finally lay your aching body down in your new bedroom, you think about all you’ve accomplished and all those who helped and how much there is to do tomorrow. Laying in that new darkness, feeling the unfamiliar energy of the house settling around you, hearing those strange nighttime sounds that you haven’t gotten used to yet…you know the worst of it is over and you can finally turn the page and start a new chapter. And the last feeling you feel—just a quick glimmer before you fall into delicious, dead-tired sleep—is the rush of possibility.

So. Much. Change. AllAtOnce.

I haven’t blogged in over two months. So much has been happening, I don’t even know what to blog about. If you could screw off the top of my skull and release the contents of my brain, the thoughts would come leaping and scrambling out like clowns from a tiny car.

Remember the post about job hunting? Well, I have a new job. That job includes a new schedule and longer hours. Still haven’t figured out how there’s time to cook dinner and get some exercise and write and pay attention to my family and my boyfriend all before bedtime. (Plus there’s Netflix; damn all those TV shows.) I know that working moms all over the country do it—heck, I did it for years—but it’s kicking my hiney right now because I’ve had this cakewalk schedule for the last two years. Welcome back to the world of grownups, Meg.

Also, I moved. I read once that moving is the third most stressful event for humans, after death of a loved one and divorce. (Pretty sure “job change” was high up on that list, too.) So, I guess it could be worse, but yeah—it’s pretty stressful. Also included in moving stress: I shacked up with my sweetheart and we’re ADJUSTING.  “Adjusting” involves trying to fit two households into one home and trying to remember how to share space with someone after you’ve been single for 15 years. I’ve only freaked out once so far.

And the big, downhill-rolling boulder that is my daughter’s departure for college continues its rapid descent onto my poor mom-heart. Maddy leaves in less than a month. She needs plane tickets and dorm furnishings and a laptop and luggage and a warm winter coat. Hopefully I can come up with the money to pay for all of those things and still have enough left for a case of Two-Buck Chuck to drown my sorrows. It’s pretty bad. I’ll be driving down the freeway or doing the laundry—just minding my own business– and out of nowhere, BAM! Emotional ambush!  Fine one minute, a weepy mess the next.

So, all in all, this is a good time for me—new job, taking the relationship to the next level, kids are growing up and doing what they’re supposed to do—but it’s also a boatload of transition all at once. I’ve got no cause to whine because all my transitions are good transitions, but most days I feel like my life is racing ahead of me and I’m being dragged along behind it with a death-grip on the bumper.

Oh! Suddenly I thought of a metaphor! (I really thought of this right now, spontaneous-like.)  My life feels a little bit like parasailing right now.

Victor & I went parasailing a couple weeks ago. (Because, you know, things weren’t crazy enough—let’s get suspended 600 feet over the Pacific Ocean while hauling ass in a speedboat!)

I was totally game for the parasailing, when Victor asked me to go– I didn’t feel afraid at all. That was stupid, because as it turns out, parasailing is actually pretty terrifying. I was fine until it was time to go up.

We were on a boat with two other couples.  The staff harnessed us up in strangely loose-fitting harnesses, and offered no safety instructions whatsoever, except to say, “If you want to hold on, hold the rope; don’t touch the metal hooks. “

IF! IF you want to hold on! Holding on is optional! So my rational mind knew that it had to be pretty safe—they let any schmuck do it; you don’t have to be fit or strong or know what you’re doing, and obviously you can’t screw it up or they’d give you more directions. Must be safe, right?

We climbed up on the back of the boat in our big, loose harnesses and they hooked us up and ZOOOM! Up we went! 600 feet! It felt just like an elevator. My harness felt just like a swing. My boyfriend was with me, taking pictures all around with his iPhone, dangling next to me without a care in the world.

And I was CLUTCHING the ropes for dear life. White-knuckled, rigid arms—clutching. I understood that I was safe, that I could not fall, that holding on was optional—shoot, Vic was right next to me, happily using all his limbs—but NOTHING could have pried my fingers off those ropes. Nothing.

We were up there for about 12 minutes, I think. I managed to take in the amazing view; I marveled at the coastline and all the tiny people on the beach—probably pointing up at us lunatics dangling over the ocean—and I even enjoyed it when the captain reeled us in and dipped us low so our feet could trail in the water. But all the while, I held onto those ropes like my children’s lives depended on it. I squeezed so tight that my arms started to fatigue, and I was terrified that my strength would give out and I’d have to let go.

Vic took this...how's that for perspective?

Vic took this…how’s that for perspective?

There’s the metaphor: clutching. My life feels like it’s flying out ahead of me and all I can do is hold on. All this frantic feeling…all this desperate clutching for nothing…questioning my own strength when my strength is irrelevant, because this ride won’t stop no matter what I do.

Just like I knew I was safe in that harness, I know am safe now.  Everything is going to be fine. The clutching is instinctive, self-protective, but it’s not necessary, and I’d enjoy things so much more if I could just let go.

One way or another, I will let go. I’ll either wise up or wear out. And either way, I’ll be fine.

Anything Would Do…

When I was a kid, there was a 7-11 on the corner near my house. The parking lot was walled by a cinder block fence, and there was a cinder block dumpster enclosure in one corner.  There weren’t any dumpsters in it, so I didn’t know that’s what it was. I just thought it was a special little outside room with no roof.

I wanted the dumpster enclosure—badly– for a clubhouse. I remember thinking it would be so cool– I could make a little roof and put a bed in there, and it was just big enough to put my stuff in. I would check it out every time we passed, and no one was ever using it. I figured if I asked nicely, maybe the owner of 7-11 would give me the dumpster enclosure and I could live in it. Oh, I would be so happy if I could just have that dumpster enclosure for my very own.

This is the enclosure I wanted. They've upgraded it since I was a kid; now it has a roof and even landscaping. Dreamy!

This is the enclosure I wanted. They’ve upgraded it since I was a kid; now it has a roof and even landscaping. Dreamy! Too bad they put a dumpster in it.

Of course, I grew up, and my ambitions outgrew the dumpster enclosure. First I wanted an apartment. Preferably an apartment like the one on Too Close for Comfort, with rainbows on the walls—but any apartment would do. By the time I got an apartment, it was 1994, so instead of rainbows I had country blue hand-me-down furniture. But I was fine with that—for a while.

Then I developed a burning desire to own something.  Anything would do, as long as it was mine. In 2001 I bought a grimy condominium wherein every surface was either dusty rose or mildew-colored. I can’t imagine why anyone other than a five-year-old girl would want so much pink. But that pink condo was mine, and once I cleaned that sucker up and painted over the pink with fashionable Tuscan colors, I loved it.  For a while.  Until I started to want a house.

Oh, how I wanted a house.  Any house would do, as long as it was mine.  My condo was cool, but it didn’t have a yard or a family room and it wasn’t big enough to host my family and suddenly, it just wouldn’t do. I had to have a house.

Well, I bought a house. Not just any house—I bought the house I grew up in. Just an ordinary ranch house in an ordinary suburb, with an extraordinary wealth of childhood memories in every room.  It had a swimming pool, a garden, and a garage to keep my hoard of craft supplies and half-done projects.  It had an antique piano in the living room. Not only was the dining room big enough to host my family, it was the very dining room in which we’d celebrated every major holiday since my parents bought it in 1979. It was more than mine; it was ours.  How I loved that house.

Until.

I wish there were no “until,” but there is. I loved that house until I had to sell it or lose it to foreclosure. An extended period of unemployment (2008-2011, just like everybody else) left me behind on the mortgage and nothing I did was enough to catch up.  It broke my heart to sell it. Still hurts to write about it.

I was in a crisis, earning half of what I’d earned before the recession, and I had to find a place I could afford—anything would do, with one tricky criteria: I wanted to keep my dogs. I had to find a place that would rent to me with two pit bulls. In case you don’t know, that is like trying to find a place that will rent to me and my herd of water buffalo. It’s really freaking difficult.  People questioned my priorities: you’re broke, and you have no place to go, and you’re going to keep those dogs? Yes, dammit, I already lost my house; I’m not losing my dogs, too.

Would you give up this dog? Me neither.

Would you give up this dog? Me neither. (Photo credit: Maddy Faulkner)

So I found one: a two-bedroom apartment that allowed pit bulls. Lucky me! Except I hated it. I tried to feel grateful because I wasn’t homeless, which is kind of a big deal. And I had my dogs, which was even something of a luxury. But I hated that damn apartment. I hated the crowded laundry room and the stupid ranchero music blasting all weekend and the idiot who parked his truck in my space and the damn yapping Chihuahuas across the way and did I mention there were COCKROACHES? (Cockroaches actually make me cry.) I hated that apartment EVERY DAY. I knew I was lucky to have it, but I couldn’t wait to leave.

Enter the ghetto cottage.  You can read about it here. It’s funky and older than dirt, and I was stoked to get it. It’s cheap and they don’t mind my dogs and it even comes with an exterminator.  Every day I am grateful for my own laundry, my own driveway, my yard, etc.

So what prompted this little walk down memory lane? Well, the GC finally got a paint job. I had been waiting for the paint job for six months.  I was so excited when they told me it was getting painted, it was like Christmas and my birthday all at once. Then I had a tiny meltdown.  WHAT ABOUT THE COLOR? WHAT IF I DON’T LIKE IT? WAIT, IS THAT PEACH? GOD ALMIGHTY, PEACH AND RED?!?

Have you ever gotten on your own nerves? I drove myself nuts obsessing about the color, when the proper response was to be grateful for the paint job. As often happens when I freak out, the reasonable part of my brain started to laugh at the crazy part. Criminy Meg, shut up. Out of the blue, I remembered that dumpster enclosure, and the kid who longed for four cinder block walls of her very own.

Oh yeah…perspective.

The ghetto cottage looks a million times better with the new paint, even though the color is a bit weird.  Now I feel even luckier to have it. As with everything in life, the key is to focus on the positive aspects while you’re working to improve the rest.  The truth is that I have everything I need, and then some.

You can't see the red behind the security door, but it's there. But look how pretty that white trim is! Woo!

You can’t see the red behind the security door, but it’s there. But look how pretty that white trim is! Woo!

This is the back door. It goes to the laundry room. I love the laundry room.

This is the back door. (It goes to the laundry room. I love the laundry room.)

Nothing Charming: Meg’s New Old House

I just moved. More precisely, I finally finished transporting my enormous mountain of largely superfluous personal possessions from a two-bedroom apartment to a tiny, three-bedroom house. I am exhausted and more than a little scattered.

When this little house became available, my dear friend, the property manager, told me about it with a hint of reluctance. “We have a house opening up that might work for you. But…you should see it before you get excited. It’s very old.” She must have seen my eyes sparkle (I love old houses) because she added, “No, there is nothing charming about this house. Believe me. It’s just old.”

It’s 87 years old, to be exact. It was built in 1925 and it’s just outside the historic district of Old Towne Orange. Peeling paint, abundant chain link fencing, a freestanding garage that doesn’t look as if it will be standing much longer—this is not Better Homes & Gardens material.

Some of the windows won’t open. Some won’t close. Many will open but will slam shut again unless you prop them open with the nearest object. Viewed from the outside at night, my new house looks like a strange, light-up showcase for bottled water and cleaning products.

There is no hallway; there is just one bathroom in the center of the house with doors leading to the kitchen, middle bedroom and back bedroom. The back bedroom (that’s mine) is only accessible via the bathroom. The bathroom is ginormous, relative to the house, and it is so oddly shaped that it has eight walls and no place to put anything.

Then there is the garage, which I am afraid to enter at night. A power cord dangles from the ceiling, and if you plug it in, a dim, flickering fluorescent bulb provides just enough light to dismember someone by.  If I have to go in there at night, I open the dilapidated garage door, back my car into the driveway, and make my daughter press on the brakes so my taillights shine into the garage*. (There is no way I’m feeling around for that dangling cord in the dark.) Then I sprint in, grab whatever I’m after and sprint back out before I feel the cold, clammy hands closing around my throat….

The garage is fondly referred to as the “Murder Shed,” thanks to my friend Lauren, who calls it like she sees it.

*I don’t know why I didn’t pull into the driveway and use my headlights. Why did I reverse? I just realized how dumb that is as I was typing the above paragraph. That’s how fried my brain is. Criminy.

Also, some classy individual wrote “FUCK” on one of the garage walls in marker. It’s sort of a decorative, bubbly lettering style. If it weren’t such a cute sort of lettering, I would have to believe it was someone’s last word before being dismembered. You can’t vandalize if you don’t have hands, punk!

In 1925, when the house was built, people didn’t amass boatloads of crap the way we do now, so closet space wasn’t a big deal. Consequently, I don’t have a lot of closet space. Other things not planned for in 1925: dishwashers, garbage disposals, or doorways big enough to slide a refrigerator through.

But it’s not all bad—obviously, I rented it for a reason. Most importantly, it’s cheap. I have my priorities, you know. Second, it’s not an apartment. Hooray! Also, it has a big back yard for my dogs.   It has washer/dryer hookups, so no more community laundry room. The scary garage is perfectly acceptable for storage (provided I access it during daylight) and the driveway has plenty of space for me and a guest to park.

You know what else it has? Charm. Sure, it’s hidden under the catastrophic paint—flaking off on the outside and layered thick on the inside—but there is plenty of charm to be found. There’s a huge front porch and tons of windows. We are already picturing our carved pumpkins out on our front porch, and our Christmas tree in the front room with all those windows.  Oh, and there’s moulding everywhere: big chunky baseboards, window moulding, door moulding— a girl like me gets pretty excited about moulding. And that chain link fence is perfect for sweet peas. Spring is going to be fun. The yard is really sunny, so I can plant herbs and tomatoes again…summer is looking good, too.

To be honest, I’m kind of excited about the whole mess.  I love fixing up old stuff. One of my favorite things is to find an old piece of furniture and paint it or repurpose it. Now I get to do that with a whole house.  I can’t spend money on it, because it’s a rental, and the whole reason I moved in was to save money (and escape the apartment).  So I will have to do it on a shoestring, which is another backwards pleasure of mine. I am the queen of frugality. Bring on the thrift stores, garage sales and Craigslist! Give me your oops paint, your castoffs, your unused plywood longing to breathe free!

I may be romanticizing a bit. Okay, I may be romanticizing a lot, but I find something loveable about this weird old house.  In a few months I may be cursing the wonky walls and pitching floors and longing for the relative modernity of my apartment.  But for now, while the house and I are getting to know each other, I will keep my rose-colored glasses firmly in place.

There it is, under the peeling paint and behind the chain link fence: something charming. See?