Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Get 'er down

I feel as though I ought to write, because it has been ten days.

I think.

There is a lot to say, but also a lot to filter.

My mind is cluttered with hopes, dreams, confusions, concerns, heartaches (simple ones, like headaches, not gut-wrenching ones) and a to-do list.

I looked at pictures to try to stimulate some antidote to writer's block.  We were on vacation in Missouri, visiting Shawn's parents last week, but of course I forgot the camera.  I have a few phone pictures.  Not good ones.

This is Jonathan shooting clay pigeons 
at a shooting range his grandfather took him to.  
He had a lot of fun and was good at it.

Here, Jonathan is target shooting at Grandpa's house.  
Grandpa taught him all about guns.  
He shot pistols, rifles and shotguns, as well as a cross bow.  

I am amused at this picture of Shawn taking a picture of Jonathan.

Jonathan also went fishing and tubing, because Grandpa has a boat on the lake.  I did not take my phone out on the lake, so there are not even any phone pictures of these endeavors.

It was an odd vacation, with only one child.  This may be the first time such a thing has ever happened, except maybe years ago with Shannon, before anybody else was born.  When Jonathan was tubing and knee-boarding, there were no siblings to trade off turns with him.  Grandpa drug him around that lake (a 70 mile lake!) for nearly an hour at 40 mph, no breaks except when the rope broke and we had to stop and tie it back together.  The boy is tenacious.  At one point, Grandpa was trying to knock him off the inner-tube, and he wouldn't let go.  Grandpa tried so hard, steering back over the choppy wake and speeding this way and that, he nearly pitched me out of the boat, but Jon held on until the rope snapped.  Jonathan.  He was sore the next morning, and scratched up because Grandpa's sweet chocolate lab kept jumping into the water and swimming out to try to "rescue" him (which he thought was endearing and cute).

While in Missouri, we also went to Branson and saw Dolly Parton's Dixieland Stampede.  Jokes, music and choreographed horseback riding while we sat in a line and used our fingers to eat chicken off the bones and corn off the cob, and drank iced tea out of ball jars.  My favorite was when they raced the baby pigs around the ring, and my second favorite was when the comical character donned a chicken costume and danced... it reminded me of when Jonathan used to be a mascot for the Syracuse Chiefs and dance on top of the dugout every night.

Jon and me at a Chiefs game in 2012 or 2013.

One of Dolly's Dixieland horses, last week.

It was a nice vacation, which was a good thing, because we came home and school started.

Have I ever told you how much I dislike the first day of school?  It was yesterday.  

Jon, who is unsure of his future direction, has moved home and is going to a local junior college this year.  I am glad to have him around, especially since Shawn will be traveling a great deal in the next few months.  It's nice to have at least one of my offspring less than eight hours away from home.  It's also nice to have an inexpensive educational opportunity to bridge the gap while Jon assesses what he really wants to do with the rest of his life.

Laura started working as a special education teacher in Ohio on Monday, too.  It was The First Day of School on many levels. 

My heart and mind overflow with prayers.  This is probably where God wants to keep me, clinging, eyes upward.

I didn't feel like writing, so I just splatted this out, mechanically, unbeautifully.  It's the best you can do sometimes.  Just get it down.  The memories are worth it.  If it's worth remembering, it's worth remembering in rough form.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Bare naked soul (aka the kitchen)

I have not wanted to do this post, but I feel as though I should.

So I will try.

First, I put it off because my camera isn't working well.  All the pictures are blurry, which is distressing to me.

Also, the original cabinet color, which I would call pale, dead flesh, actually looks good when I take pictures of it (with this broken camera), much more warm and wood-like than it looks in real life.

Since 95% of the (maybe 12?) people who "read this post" won't read this (meaning none of them, with the possible exception of one), but will only look at the pictures, I should not even waste the time to try to explain.  But anyway.  You will think my cabinets were a better color originally.  I assure you, they weren't.


I am going to go out of my way to try to explain this (defensive a little?  maybe).  I will begin with pictures that I think accurately capture the colors of the cabinetry in my kitchen (at least on my computer monitor), before and after, IN SPITE OF the way they will look in the following "reveal" photographs.  So please, please believe me and use your imagination as you look at the eventual kitchen pictures.

This is a "sample" of the original cabinet color:

When we bought the house off the internet without looking at it, I knew I did not care for the kitchen cabinet color, nor did I like the way it looked with yellow brass hardware and pinky-beige counters.  I thought, "No problem.  We'll just switch out the hardware for some oil-rubbed bronze, and top it with some dark granite counters.  It will be fine."


We arrived and found that:

  1. There was no space to store anything larger than an average sized salad bowl, anywhere in the kitchen.
  2. There was a serious traffic flow problem between the refrigerator and the peninsula (see below).

Imagine yourself standing with your back to the end of that peninsula.  Then imagine opening that refrigerator door.  It was a bad thing.

Clearly, it would be money thrown into a black hole to simply redo the counters on that footprint of a kitchen.

Ach.  I have wandered off topic, or ahead of topic, or something.  How did I do this?

Cabinet colors:


New (I used two, mixed together):
(a rich wood tone that Shawn really liked)
(a dark brown called chocolate that will heretofore look black in the pictures, which is quite distressing to me)

All this is to ask, to plead with you to realize when you look at the pictures:

  1. The original color was, truly, a pale, dead flesh color, and not a whimsical light golden oak color as it may appear.
  2. The new, dark cabinets are a rich dark brown, not a black so dark that it fades utterly into shadow.

Okay.  On with the show.  Back to business.  Here we go.

I really enjoy the way the kitchen is more open around the sink.  There is plenty of space both on the right and on the left.

We put these little "pull out pantries" on either side of the sink cabinet:

By moving the refrigerator to the other side of the room, we created a large, traditional storage and serving buffet area.  It also gives us extra work space when we get lots of things going at once.

One of my favorite parts of this change is the higher ceiling.  It is uplifting!  Incidentally, I love those little shelves to the right of the sink.  There are similar shelves on the left, but they are not as prominently visible, so the best stuff is on the right.  The top shelf displays this little beauty that I got at an estate sale in our neighborhood:

We are so glad to have the kitchen open, without the constipated blockage we formerly suffered between the old refrigerator and the end of the peninsula!


By moving the stove over to the right, we gained a nice workspace between the stove and the sink.  We also made room for a nice pots and pans cabinet.

We gave up a little bit of kitchen storage here, but we got Shawn a nicer sink:

And... to the left we were able to put in a BROOM CLOSET!
Another view of the pantry,  Yes, we put this in, in place of the desk area.  it was a good change.  I didn't like writing in a kitchen corner (my kids even came home and said, "Mom, why is your computer there???").  And now we have loads of storage, even for large items, like our crock pot and our turkey roaster.  Best of all, it isn't even difficult or painful to get them out!


As you can see here, I am a lazy photographer and got tired of moving things out of view, 
hence the colander of grapes in the lovely white plastic bowl on the counter,
 napkins, mail, a bin of dog medicine, etc.  

Oh!  Haha!  That great big drawer in the middle is my Tupperware drawer.  It is so much easier than it has ever been to put leftovers away!

Well, that gives you some idea.  I am sorry if you liked the old kitchen better.  My guess is, it was probably crafted with more love.  Our contractor experience was bad, and it left me with such a negative taste, I don't even know how I feel about my kitchen.


I like the extra work space around the sink.
I like all the additional and specialized storage we got.
I like having the soffits out and the ceiling higher.
I like my big buffet serving area.
I like my broom closet!
I like the open space without the peninsula.
I like having a gas stove!

I am thankful,
I am very thankful,
and someday I might even get over the traumatized feeling the ordeal gave me.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Sausage and potato pie... GLUTEN FREE!!!

Going gluten free was not so hard for, say, the first four months.  I like meat and potatoes, and meat and potatoes are still very much available.  I don't like sandwiches very much, so not eating them has not posed much of a problem.  I figured out a good gluten free muffin recipe, tasty and satisfying for a breakfast treat.  Gluten free pasta options exist for when a pasta craving arises (not that often).

But pizza.  Ahhhhh pizza.

Gluten free pizza is not . . . I'm not sure what it's not, but it is definitely not something.

There is also a fly buzzing loudly in my window blind right now, making it difficult for me to focus.

I'm trying.

Sausage and potato pie was born from my attempts to come up with a vegetable crust pizza, because there must be some sort of a pizza crust that is better than those tough, flat rice-flour-tortilla things that every pizza joint has available now.  Sausage and potato pie was born from my hope in a vegetable crust pizza, and the comments after this post.

I was asked for the recipe.

There is no recipe.

But I will try to explain how I did it.

***Short version:

Make mashed potatoes.  Season with your favorite herbs and cheeses, generously.  Beat an egg into these mashed potatoes.  Spread in a buttered deep dish pizza stone.

Brown a pound of sausage.  Use some of the fat from the sausage and a drizzle of molasses to caramelize some onion.  Wilt some baby spinach in olive oil and a splash of white cooking wine. **I also meant to saute some nice mushrooms and pile them on, but I realized I had forgotten to buy them.**

Sprinkle grated sharp cheddar on top of the mashed potatoes.  Pile the sausage, onions, spinach and (if you have them) mushrooms on top of the cheese.  Sprinkle a bunch more sharp cheddar over the top over everything.

Bake in preheated oven on preheated stone at 400 until all the cheese is melted and the edges of the potatoes start to turn golden brown.

***Long version:

6 fairly small potatoes (not tiny, but smaller than what I would call medium)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. minced onion flakes
1/3 cup parmesan cheese (the kind in a plastic can is fine)
1/3 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

1 lb. sausage (I used gluten free, because this is a GF recipe.  It was rubbery and did not render much fat, which was somewhat but not tremendously disappointing)
1/2 a smallish mild onion (like vidalia, or red)
1 tsp. molasses
1/8-1/4 tsp salt
**1 cup sliced white mushrooms**

2 cups loosely arranged baby spinach (this will cook down to almost nothing)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp white cooking wine

1 and 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, or more

You don't need to peel the potatoes, but cut them into small cubes.  Cook in boiling salted water for 15-20 minutes or until tender.  Drain and mash lightly with hand masher.  Add butter and mash some more.

Preheat oven to 400F, with an 11" deep dish pizza stone in it.  Be sure to preheat the stone as well as the oven.

In a small bowl, combine milk, egg, oregano, salt, garlic, and onion.  Beat well with fork.  Beat some of the potato into the milk mixture, being careful not to cook the egg.  Add more of the potato, a little at a time, until the bowl is full.  Then add this mixture back to the rest of the potatoes.  The idea is to be careful and work gradually so you don't cook the egg with the hot potatoes.

Brown the sausage in a skillet or saute pan.  Save the fat.  If you are lucky, you will get enough to caramelize the onion in.  Toss the onion and molasses with the fat until the onion turns golden brown and loses all its crispness.  If you are going to do mushrooms, add them now and toss them around in the pan with the onion until they look and smell delicious.

You can either do the spinach in this pan, or saute it separately in olive oil in another pan. Add the cooking wine and let the spinach thoroughly wilt.

Remove the (very hot) baking stone from your oven.  Add 3 tbsp butter to the baking stone.  It will melt fast.  Swirl it around to get melted butter all over the bottom and up the sides of the stone.

Place the mashed potatoes in the stone.  They will sizzle.  Spread them out.  Top with 1/2 cup cheese, the sausage, onions, mushrooms and spinach.  Top with another cup of cheese (or more, as much as you have...)

Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes, until cheese is melty and the edges of the potatoes are turning golden brown.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Midsummer moving, and new homes

This is a guest post by Shannon, who occasionally writes over here.


I have spent a lot of time thinking about what home means.

It has been an odd year with respect to home.  The old home base was in Liverpool.  It moved last summer, from central New York to central Illinois.  New home base feels equal parts familiar and unfamiliar, things I know arranged in a place that I don’t.

Just after my parents moved, or maybe just before, my advisor informed the research group that he had some offers at different establishments.  And I'm practically not even blurring the specifics for you, here.  Everything about the entire process has been frustratingly vague.  And that’s not just frustrating for me, but also for anyone trying to understand my situation.

“So, you’re moving.”

“Probably yes,” I’d say.


“I don’t know,” I’d say.


“I don’t know,” I’d say.

Every question I was asked, I found myself answering with "I don't know."  It was miserable, because I was already feeling anxiety about the tenuousness of my situation.  Perfectly reasonable curiosity from other people who worked in the building, or from other people ("laypersons") who cared about me, became something dreadful that sank and settled into the pit of my stomach, weighing me down every time I was brought forcibly back to look at the issue: I didn’t know what was going on and I was not in control.

Eventually, we worked out the where (Boston), but not any of the details (When? How?).

Ultimately, it took some seriously proactive behavior to sort everything out.  My coworkers, thankfully, are better at being proactive in delicate situations than I am, so Kate worked out an August 1 move date for us – we planned to be roommates in Boston, to solve the problem of the elevated cost of rent.

My boss and I had a conversation that went a little like this.

“Could I possibly move August first?  It would be so much easier with regards to my lease, because that’s when it turns over.”

“I think we could probably make that work.”

“Okay.  Good.  So I am going to Boston this weekend to look at apartments.  If I sign a lease, that’s going to be okay?”

“Yes.  We can make that happen.”

“So I can make arrangements for my lease here to be filled by someone else?”

“Oh, no, don’t do that.  You want to have a plan B.”

The problem, besides the continual sidestepping of questions that desperately needed answers, was that it is not economically feasible to rent two apartments at once on a graduate student stipend.  So we took a leap of faith: Kate and I signed a lease for a beautiful, big two bedroom apartment in almost-suburban Boston, complete with full kitchen (and dishwasher!), and I told Yale Housing to go ahead and fill my apartment with someone who is not me.

The reality of the situation refused to sink in, even after the several hiccups we had getting the apartment.  First, we didn’t technically make enough in combined income to rent the place (they want rent to be a third of your income, but on our budget and in this city, that just doesn’t happen unless you make some really painful sacrifices).  Second, we had to go through a broker to rent an apartment in the Boston area.

This is particularly painful because the broker’s fee is one month’s rent.  We had to be prepared to put three or four months’ rent down on the spot.  We managed it.  I suppose the silver lining is that going through a broker puts a hold on the apartment, so no one else can swoop in and take it out from under you.

We made arrangements to rent the apartment starting July 15, with slightly pro-rated rent for the month of July.  Initially we planned to move on August first, but the landlord didn't want to lose a month of rent.  We thought it would be fine, because we were looking on June 28, and thought it would be unlikely for him to find tenants who were prepared to move into the apartment in the next three days.  We'd move in the weekend of July 26-27. because that was the weekend that Yale Housing wanted me out of my (then) current apartment so that they could clean before the next tenant arrived on August 1.

But then I arrived at work on Monday, June 30th to find Kate frantically printing a copy of the lease.  “Something happened,” she said, “Something went wrong.  Someone else showed the apartment, and those people want to rent it for July first, so we have to sign this now.”

Something had gone wrong on the broker’s end – the end, if you’ll recall, where we paid her $2,000 to make sure that this did not happen – and the hold hadn’t been placed, or observed, or whatever.  So we now had an expedited lease, emailed to us by our broker so we could sign and fax it back.

Turnaround on our end was quick, but we waited days to find out whether or not the landlord had signed.

Eventually we heard: he signed.  We had an apartment.  We breathed many sighs of relief.

And then I realized I had to pack all of my earthly belongings, and I began to despair.  I had too many things, I didn’t know how everything was going to fit, where am I going to get boxes…

One day, Ben made the fortuitous discovery that a lab down the hall had ordered many things that had come in many large boxes.  This went a long way toward helping us obtain moving materials.

I took it, very literally, one day at a time.  The first couple of days that I tackled the task of getting ready to move, I just went through my clothes.  I took the clothes I hadn’t worn in years, the party dresses, and the clothes that just plain didn’t fit anymore, and I put them in a box.  That box sat on my floor as I moved as many clothes-to-keep as I could from my closet to my dresser.  (I had it on good authority that I should move the dresser with clothes in it to save space – we took the drawers out, and then the dresser itself, and moved it that way.)

It was emotionally taxing even just to put my kitchen implements into a tote, carefully packing breakable items in with towels and t-shirts.  There were several days where I only packed one or two boxes and then retired to the bedroom, to stare at the ceiling and wonder if I was going to make it.

I took those carefully folded old clothes to Goodwill, eventually, where a man took them over a counter that seemed like it was just brimming with trash bags stuffed with clothes, and asked me if I wanted a receipt.

“Um, yes?” I said, and he signed a little square of paper and handed it to me.  A blank receipt.  A you-fill-in-the-blanks.  I suppose I could use it as a tax write-off, but I think I might have just lost it in my car.

Kate reserved the UHaul – Ben was moving with us, and we’d split it three ways.  The day before we needed to pick it up, UHaul contacted her to let her know that there was some kind of mix-up and the UHaul wouldn’t be in New Haven, as we’d first thought.  We could pick it up in Meriden, 24 miles away.  For our troubles, they upgraded us from a 17’ truck to a 20’ truck and gave us the extra miles at no extra charge.

It was nice of them to upgrade the truck but I felt that the miles were the absolute least that they could do.  We needed those miles because they’d made us drive the truck from Meriden to New Haven, and we hadn’t had that many to spare after our trip from New Haven to Boston.

So, on Saturday morning, we picked up the UHaul.  Ben climbed into the driver’s seat, and Kate bought a padlock because we’d be storing all of our things in it overnight, on the street.

We packed Ben first, and it went quickly.  He didn’t have very much that had accumulated in his apartment, so it was mainly mattress and box spring, television in the back seat of my car for protection, and a few boxes.  Even with his not-completely-packed status (he’d arrived back from vacation the previous day), it only took us about half an hour to move all of his things into the UHaul and then give his apartment a once-over.

Then we moved to my apartment, propping doors open to move everything.  I felt panicked as we broke down my bedframe and futon into smaller, more manageable pieces.  I’d oscillated between thinking I was fine and thinking that I just had way too much stuff.

As we loaded my things into the truck and I watched it fill up, wondering how we would ever fit all of the furniture at Kate’s place, my anxiety spiked.  Everyone was a little bit quieter at my place, worry gnawing at each person, sweat pouring off of us as we marched in and out of the building, in and out of the truck in the humid afternoon.

Finally, all of my things were in the truck and I found myself despairing, looking at it and not believing that there was any way that everything would fit.

By the time we brought the truck to Kate’s apartment, everyone was hot, sweaty, and fairly miserable.  Moving out is harder than moving in, by the way.  You worry about how to arrange things in the truck, how to fit them, knowing that if you do it wrong the first time, it is going to be an absolute bear to take everything out and play the hugest, most un-fun version of tetris anyone could imagine.

But we needed to finish moving, so we took boxes (one of these was very small, maybe the size of a DVD player, but marked HEAVY and she wasn’t kidding.  Later we asked what was in it, and she looked surprised and then said “well, those are hand weights. I did say it was heavy!” and for some reason this was uproariously funny to us), the boys took the couch and mattress, Kate and I moved the dining set that we’d bought from Diane (her old roommate) and Dan (Diane’s husband as of this past June), we moved dressers and end tables and coffee tables…

Somehow, we found ourselves with all of our things in the back of this UHaul and probably 20% of the space remaining.  It seemed absolutely miraculous to me, but the truck had been packed efficiently.  I guess scientists are good at tetris.

I ran back to my apartment, where I swept and mopped and scrubbed, washed out the fridge and freezer with hot soapy water and reinstalled all of the screens in the windows.  I wiped the sweat off of my face with my only very slightly less sweaty forearm, glad for my recent haircut that let me pile my hair on top of my head, and I switched off the air conditioning unit.

I left that apartment empty except for the envelope that I was supposed to drop my keys in, and I headed back to Kate’s.

A bunch of friends from the department converged on Kate's apartment, and we grilled burgers and hot dogs, had chips and hummus and fruit salad.  It still didn’t feel real, even knowing that my apartment was as bare as the day I’d first walked into it to see where I’d be living, even knowing that everything I owned was in the UHaul parked out on the street.

In fact, it still wasn’t real until people left, and I climbed into Diane’s bed (she lives with Dan now).  I’d never even been in Diane’s room before, and now I felt sort of suffocated by bold orange walls (she didn’t paint them, just didn’t paint over them either) and the white bed in the middle of the room.  I tried to arrange the covers on myself, and I lay there, awake.

I sent out a few roaming texts, and received a number of reassuring responses.  Mom was particularly good while I lay there, awake and in a panic.  I slept poorly in general that night; I woke up every hour and when it was finally morning, I didn’t feel much like I’d slept.

We stopped at Nica’s, our neighborhood… everything?  It’s more than a little grocery store, with its hot bar and made to order sandwiches at the back.  We ordered breakfast sandwiches.  I had bacon, egg, and cheese on a crisp, buttery croissant and a hazelnut coffee, free with the points I’d racked up in previous visits, and we sat quietly around a table outside.  I wondered if I’d ever have one again.

I will, you know.  I’m going to have to go back to help pack up the lab.  I’m hoping that my boss makes some arrangements for overnights if that’s the case.  I’d really rather not crash on a futon.  But that morning, I wondered if I’d ever have another breakfast sandwich at Nica’s, there in the middle of East Rock where all the graduate students lived.

And then Kate and Ben stopped briefly at work to grab some last things, and I stopped at my apartment to drop off my keys.  I pushed the envelope through the little drop box slot, and when it fell from my fingertips, I felt frightened and morose.  I can’t get back into my building now, I thought.  This is really it.  And then I turned my back, hunched my shoulders a little bit, and climbed into my car.

We drove through the rain, from New Haven to Boston, to get to our apartment.  At times, the rain was hard enough that I despaired some more.  Even knowing that you have a sizable moving crew is not much solace when you think you’ll have to move in a downpour.  Luckily, when we arrived, the rain was not much more than a sprinkle.

I retrieved the apartment keys from a lockbox, locked to the railing at the house, and I let myself in.  Kate’s sister and her boyfriend were the first arrivals, and immediately helped unload the contents of my car.  I’m not sure how much help I was, shell-shocked and moving slowly back and forth, worrying about the slightly muddy footprints being tracked into and onto the hardwood floors of the apartment.  Kate and I hadn’t even decided on bedrooms yet.

When she and Ben arrived shortly afterward with the truck, other people trickled in.  Laura, a postdoc, Steve and Emma, another postdoc and his girlfriend, visiting from the UK.  Clark, a co-worker.  Denise, another co-worker, came later.  As Ben pulled the truck up to the curb in front of the house, I saw an accident out of the corner of my eye.  A car making a left turn onto our street had moved into the path of a bicyclist, and the bicyclist had shattered the car’s rear passenger side window with his body.  It sounded awful, and the car immediately stopped, the driver exited, his hands on his head out of desperation.  The cyclist didn’t move.

Max ran down to the accident and called 911, while people still moved from the truck to the house, from the truck to the house with grim determination.  Emergency vehicles arrived shortly: an ambulance, a police car, probably some others as well.  I stayed back.  I didn’t want to see it, didn’t want to think about it.  Eventually it all faded into the background as our transition marched on.

“So, I was thinking, my bed would probably fit better in the bigger bedroom,” Kate said.  It’s a difficult situation all around, this awkward bedroom-settling thing.  My bed is only a full.  I’m not going to lie, I certainly would have been happy with the bigger bedroom, but I didn’t mind conceding it.  It wasn’t worth haggling over, and having the decision made gave me some direction.  I started to move my things into the smaller bedroom.  In the end, everything fit beautifully (another masterful game of tetris), and the room is small, cozy, and very bright because of its two windows.

It was funny, how fast things came together on this side.  Some of our people unpacked us into the kitchen, which makes every cooking or baking project also a scavenger hunt (but really, they made a lot of sense when they did it, so it could be much worse).  I put things on shelves, in closets; Denise took our empty boxes with her when she left, for her own move in a month.

The UHaul left the curb outside, and I stayed in the apartment, feeling dizzy and disoriented.  I looked at my books, and I looked at my room, I made up my bed and I took a long, lukewarm shower, washing sweat and grime off of my body and out of my hair.  I was absolutely tired, down to my bones.  Fatigue had tried to set in hours ago and had been brushed off, so it returned now – with a vengeance.

I texted Mom some pictures of the apartment, and then I crawled into bed, only leaving once to get some water.  I popped a few Advil tablets and eventually fell asleep.

I woke the next morning knowing exactly where I was.  I’m not sure why I knew; I had expected to be disoriented when I thought about what that first morning might be like.  There’s something nice about having familiar things around you, though, and I had many familiar things in my room.  Rain was pattering against my windowsills, and I checked the clock.  It was only 8:45, but I got up anyway, savoring the ache in my muscles.  Kate wasn’t home, so I picked up a book and sat on the futon.

A few minutes later, Kate and Ben burst, saturated and dripping, into the apartment with groceries.  After they toweled off, we made breakfast: waffles, bacon, and strawberries, and we sat around the kitchen table and ate.

Since then, I seem to have been adjusting to my new surroundings fairly well.  I made my very first batch of cinnamon rolls – with a brioche base, and it was the first time I’d ever tried using yeast in a recipe – and they turned out beautifully.  We’ve gone down into Cambridge to have lunch with Steve and Emma.  Everything is going to be okay.

Everything is going to be okay.

Home.  I’m not sure what home is, anymore.  Home is where the heart is?  Geographically speaking, I have no idea where my heart is, or where it longs to be.  The past year has been rough on my bearings, not that I was ever particularly directionally competent to begin with. 

The apartment that is the first floor of this house feels closer to home than my old apartment did, empirically speaking.  It’s in a location that reminds me a little bit of the suburbs that I grew up in.  I don’t have to walk through a dormitory-esque hall to get to my apartment door, and we have a kitchen with plenty of counter space.

It’s just so new, and my old apartment was so familiar, that I feel jarred and sometimes uncomfortable here.  Not all of the time, but occasionally, for sure.  Nothing quite feels like home anymore, and I suppose nothing will until I finally settle somewhere for the (a?) long(er?) haul.

Still, for the time being, this will do.  This will do very nicely.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Looking back a year later

Shannon will write a post for me soon, and it will be much better than what I am capable of at this time.  Look forward to it!

At the same time, I feel a deep need to write about the past year, here on the somewhat-anniversary of our move to the Midwest.

I don't have the exact dates.  I was a wreck back then, an absolute wreck.  Right now, I am a bit of a wreck simply in remembrance.  I think I could figure out the dates, even by looking back a year at my writing here.  But I don't want to read those posts.  Not today.

Approximately one year ago, we drove out from Syracuse to close on our house, this house we had never seen.  I remember my gut-wrenching panic at the discovery of the eight-foot-tall weeds overtaking the yard, the clematis dying around the foundation of the house where the previous owner had sprayed Roundup, and the utter lack of storage space in the kitchen.  I remember looking at the corroding gold faucet extending over the dirty pink kitchen sink, and choking back tears.  I remember the realtor smiling brightly and saying in a pushed-cheerful voice, "Do you love it?"

I remember going to a burger place called Meatheads for lunch and crying over my burger but somehow still choking it down.

I remember the closing.  I believe it was on a Friday, the last Friday in July, 2013?  The seller's realtor was a nice lady who kept saying nice things to try to make us feel better about the house we were purchasing.  Honestly, she was trying to be nice.  And the seller's lawyer was obnoxious and kept talking about her recent trip to a water-park in Indianapolis, and how much the kids loved the breakfast buffet, which was not just any buffet, now this was a real buffet.  Because of her prattle, we were having trouble hearing the pertinent parts of the transaction we were going through, signing form after form as in a nightmare, and finally Shawn, who never snaps at anybody, snapped at that lawyer and asked her to please be quiet so he could hear what he was signing his name to.

And then we went back to the house, newly ours, and slept there on an air mattress.  I remember struggling to figure out which switch controlled which light, and walking up the narrow oak steps to the second floor in the dark, and how different it felt from my house on Sugar Pine where the upstairs hall that connected the bedrooms was actually a balcony that overlooked an open two-story foyer.  I remember walking the hallway in this house from the kitchen to the front door, making a 180 degree turn and heading upstairs in the dark, giving up on the light switches.

We left the air mattress there, and some other things, a few towels, and pictures and china we had elected to move ourselves rather than leave them to the movers.

We drove back to Syracuse where commenced surreal days--Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday--of packing and loading the moving truck.  It was all like a dream, and possibly a very bad dream.  I remember not being able to eat, not knowing what to do, but somehow it was miraculously happening without me.

We finished in Syracuse, sad, empty, overwhelmingly grateful for Kevin and Jeannie, whom we had just met, who fed us our last supper in Liverpool, and also to Ed and Donna, beloved friends who put us up beautifully, lovingly on our last night there.  Ed and Donna also helped us with a few last touch-ups on the empty house, and with loading our vehicles for the last drive away.  I remember lying in their son Adam's bed (he was away on a missions trip), unable to sleep.  I got up and stared out the window for awhile, just soaking up the Liverpoolness of it, the green grass beneath the streetlight. 

We drove across the states on Thursday: New York (I will never forget that last drive down John Glenn Boulevard, wondering if I would ever see that road again, familiar as it was, the grass, the trees, the stoplight at 370), then Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois.  Ohio is a wickedly thick state, full of dug-up roads, and every time we drive around Columbus, somebody almost kills us. On that trip, there were two near-death incidents, but God kept us safe.  Shawn drove his car, David drove his, and Jon drove me and the dogs in the silver van.  Jon's red van had been towed off to the Rescue Mission.

We arrived here late Thursday night.  We'd hired the house cleaned, and the carpets shampooed.  They did this on the wrong day, and the carpets were soaking wet when we walked in, the windows fogged with condensation.  We never complained to anybody.  We just laid out our air mattresses on the wet carpet and did our best to sleep through the night.  Schubert became disoriented and urinated on Jonathan's bedding.   An early morning cell phone call alerted us that the truck with our furniture would arrive in about 30 minutes.

And so we were here.  A year ago.

Since then:
  • David went away to medical school.
  • Jonathan began his first year of college, in PA, with Laura.
  • I was alone, alone, alone like I don't think I have been since we moved to NY before any of the children were born.
  • Laura got engaged.
  • I had to have a breast biopsy.
  • I had a hysterectomy.
  • We remodeled the kitchen (that is all I'm going to say about that).
  • Laura graduated from college.
  • Laura got married.
  • Laura moved to Ohio and got a real job.
  • Shannon moved from New Haven to Boston, I think on the anniversary of our moving here.

Those are the big ones.  That's enough.

That's enough.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sometimes I wish somebody else would write this blog

It's weighing on me.

I need to write about moving, how we moved a year ago, and how far we have come since then.  Also, I need to write about Shannon's move this past weekend, and Lu's move over the course of this month.

All I know is, every time I see a moving truck or a UHaul trailer, I get harsh pangs in my stomach and I spontaneously pray, "Oh, Lord Jesus, please help those poor people with what they are going through."

I wonder if strangers along the road were praying that for me?  I think they might have been.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Some pictures that make me happy

I was going to write over on "To Sleep..." today, about how well I am doing as a person with lupus.


I didn't quite feel good enough.

I'm chuckling over that, don't worry.  I really am doing quite well.  I've been so thankful each day, for the sun, the flowers, the birdsong and the cornfields.  And everything...  the hope of heaven, and Jesus who loves me all the time.

Here are some pictures that make me happy.  I hope you enjoy them too.

a zinnia

a different zinnia

my front door
I love walking up to my front door these days, 
even though the flowers crowd the path
and could be a tripping hazard.
I feel a little bit naughty 
to be so delighted by this wild
riot of color and leaves.

These giant dahlias are ridiculous.
The dark purple morning glories are vining all over them.

How amazing is it to have honeysuckle?
Yes, I've tasted some.  It's good!

Yesterday I was walking the dogs.  
A neighbor called to me from her driveway,
"You aren't looking for a plant stand are you?
I'm trying to get rid of this."
As a matter of fact, I have been looking for a plant stand.
Thanks! (I might paint it brown...)

In front of the porch, I planted two canna lilies.
One is blooming.
It is red.
Shawn insists on calling it a "bird of paradise."

a close up
(canna lily, aka bird of paradise)

some flowers I picked and brought into the kitchen

a favorite picture from the wedding
(thanks for taking it, Ann!)

another favorite picture from the wedding:
Shannon in the dress I made her
holding hands with flower-girl Kristi
listening to Shawn give a speech.
 and a dahlia from behind
because I cannot get over these dahlias

~The end~