Sunday, January 29, 2017

A House is Like a Bead

You remember when I made beads, don't you? It's probably how you first got to know me. (If not, have a look at my Beadist page.) My beads were made in layers, lots of layers, sometimes thirty or more. There were steps that needed to be followed, but most of what happened in any given bead was organic and something of a surprise to me. Each new layer became obvious as I completed the one before it, until finally, I would know it was finished.

I've noticed that making a house into Home is much the same as making a bead. It's done in layers too. We came in and cleaned, even though it was already clean. We cleared old energies with essential oils and words of gratitude. (Intention is everything, and I hate the smell of burning sage.) We painted for days, until our muscles hurt, and I vowed never to paint another wall again. I'm sure I was wrong about that. We still have the other half of our house to work on, once the renters move out. (Soon please.)

We brought in furniture and clothes and kitchen things and bathroom things. We moved them around and around until it felt right. We moved them some more. We looked around and noted what was missing, and bought it and brought it in. We already have so many things, but we don't have the right things for this little house.

We got a fireplace. Electric, because gas is at the street but not in the house. We ordered a tiny dining table and a big, soft, vintagey-blue rug. I moved things around some more while Rick was in California for a week. And it's beginning to feel like Mine, and Ours.

In that same week, I also knitted a lacy curtain for the back door, and ordered fabric swatches for flowy curtains for the bedroom. I'm working on a coral colored crochet panel for the creepy little beveled glass sliver in our front door that makes me feel like I'm being watched at night, and looks like something from a grandmother's house. So what if I actually am a grandmother. I'm not that beveled glass kind of grandmother. And besides, windows need to be softened at night, even if there isn't a neighbor for miles around. (We do have many neighbors.) Flat, shiny, black nighttime glass just looks cold and un-cozy, like you could spill out into the night at any moment.

And with all that done - in only two weeks - it's kind of amazing - there are more layers to be added. The "core of the bead" is in place, and it's time for the final details, the shaping, the polishing. New paintings are coming home with Rick today, from my cousin, and favorite painter, Mitzi Miles-Kubota. Older, beloved pieces of art will come out of their paddings and packagings. The walls will come alive with color and texture and form and love. Finishing touches, inside, and then lots of work outside. Then, as I said, the other half of the house. So many layers.

A house is like a bead that's never finished. Layer after layer will either make it more refined, more what we want, more Home - or, will make it into a messy blob that lost its focus somewhere. I'm watching it closely, taking careful care. And I love how this gem of a house, our house, is already taking on depth and motion and beauty of its own, much like my favorite beads.


Monday, January 23, 2017

It Really Is The Ocean

This little cove, at the south end of town, is a five minute walk from our house. It boasts some pretty great surfing waves, and almost every day we'll see anywhere from a handful to dozens of black silhouettes bobbing in the wild water. The stormy weather seems to keep them away, but otherwise, I'm told that the best surfing is in the winter. I'm happy watching from the beach.

For years in Seattle, and then again in Portland, we were surrounded by freeways, and the noise that comes with them. When that sound was at a distance, I was able to pretend I was really hearing the ocean. The other night we realized we actually can hear the waves from our back bedroom at night, when our already quiet neighborhood goes to sleep. Now I find that I'm having to convince myself that what I'm hearing is really the ocean, and not the freeway...

I'm sure I'll get used to it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Seven Rules For Happy Moving

Picking up where we left off...

Just as we allowed ourselves to relax and enjoy a day off before the big move, the moving company called to see if they could load the truck on Saturday instead of Sunday. So... the Friday we'd planned (I'm beginning to just crack up every time I hear that word) to go out and enjoy our favorite Portland places one more time was jolted into high speed last minute moving prep. Fine! OK! We can play in Portland some other time!

This brings me to Rule Number 1 for Happy Moving - Make a Plan, and Plan to Change It
This rule pretty much applies to everything in life. Nothing is ever going to go the way you expect it to. If you don't want to be crazy cranky as you intentionally tear apart your home and your current world, just try to be a little bit flexible. There's really no other choice anyway. Set things up the way you'd like them to go, and then take your hands off the wheel. You are not in control. Never will be.

Moving is hard work, no matter how excited we are (and we are!) to make the move. Even with two strong guys doing the heavy lifting, Rick and I still did more physical work than either of us was ready for. Lots of groaning and ibuprofen played into getting us out of our apartment and pointed toward the beach.

Rule Number 2 for Happy Moving - Pay Someone to do it For You
This was the first time I've ever hired movers, and now I can see the error in my do-it-yourself ways all those years. You'll save a ton of time, stress, damage to your precious possessions, and personal physical discomfort, and land at your destination reasonably ready for the next big job of unpacking all those boxes. (More on that later.) Yes, it costs money to have someone else move your stuff. And it's worth every penny. Really. If Rick and I had tried to move all this stuff, plus the furniture you don't see here, plus the crap in storage that had been there untouched for three years, all by ourselves, not only would it have taken days to get it done, we probably would have ended up in the hospital, which is much more expensive that hiring movers. Also, pay someone to do your move-out cleanup. I "planned" for this (teehee), but the change in timing had me cleaning as we went along, leaving just the final wipe-down for about an hour after the apartment was emptied. It saved us a few bucks, but I would have preferred to let a pro do what they're good at.

I'm officially Thanking God for Willamette Valley Moving, right here and now, in front of all these people. Shannon and Michael took great care of our things - even our crappy Ikea things - and worked so fast we had a loaded truck and an empty apartment in just about two hours. Amazing. (BTW, I actually like my Ikea stuff, but I know the furniture doesn't hold up well in a move.)


As the movers, with their truck full of our worldly goods, headed back to the barn for the night, we drove over what we thought would be the clearest road to the coast. The recent snowstorm had made a mess of everything, and the roads in downtown Portland were the worst part of the trip. The rest of the drive looked more like we were heading for a ski trip than moving to the beach.

Once we got here, it was just us and what we'd crammed into the car. We still needed to dig out the air bed and sleeping bags for one more round of house camping, but keeping our priorities straight, we first headed for the U Street Pub, which happens to be right around the corner from our house. We sat there in kind of a weary stupor, and enjoyed our beers and veggie burgers (which are easily veganized by leaving the butter off the bun, and holding the secret sauce. We added grilled onions this time. And next time I might even smuggle in a little vegan mayo and a couple of slices of Chao Cheese. We already have a new favorite place.

Rule Number 3 for Happy Moving - Fuel Your Sweet Self
Stop what you're doing every so often, and put something good to eat in your mouth. Drink water even more often. If you have to pee a lot, so much the better. It's a chance to sit down for a minute. Eat a real breakfast. Take a lunch break. Call somebody and have it delivered. Moving is about paying people to do as much as possible, because you really have quite enough to do already. And at the end of the day, let those boxes sit right where they are, and go get a good meal and a tasty beverage. The next phase of the work will wait, and you'll be able to actually function if you eat well and get some rest. (The big beer is mine. I love a good red ale.)

The next morning, the big truck arrived at 10:00, and we were ready for them. All camping gear was cleared, and the house was ready to be filled. What we didn't realize was that we had way more stuff than we thought we did. The house was filled, and then filled some more. The storage "breezeway," which runs the depth of the garage, was also filled. And in the course of two more hours of amazing moving-guys magic, we found ourselves surrounded by towers of things that suddenly looked more like junk than treasures. I think I cried a little.

Completely overwhelmed, we waved goodbye to the guys, and got to work. Again. Something I noticed in this move (which I truly hope will be my last move, ever, ever, ever), is that moving isn't just moving. It's moving the exact same things at least four times, and usually many more than that. Into the boxes, into the truck, out of the truck, and then out of the boxes. This doesn't factor in all the rearranging of boxes in each phase, or the rearranging of the practically everything as it finds its way into a new home. Rules 4 and 5 are here to help.

Rule Number 4 for a Happy Move - One Box at a Time
Don't freak yourself out by thinking you have to get everything unpacked all at once. I just tell myself, one box at a time, and if I'm feeling particularly fragile, just one box today will do. This gives me a sense of completion as I go. And of course, when I finish one box, I always go on to another one. I also yell, WooHoo! Empty box!, every time I break one down and toss it in the recycle pile.

No matter how carefully we pack, it always seems that too many stowaways find their way into our collections of precious objects. The way to prevent this is to throw things out as we're packing, of curse, but that never really seems to work, does it? I might need this set of plastic measuring cups from the Dollar Store... These rolls of gift wrap are still new... Worn out clothes I never wear might be just perfect in our new place... Plastic forks, and random napkins and chopsticks could come in useful, because future takeout restaurants might not provide these things...

The stress of moving makes us sort of nuts, and impairs our judgement. You're going to pack silly things. It's OK. We all do it. So when you get to your new home, and find all sorts of things you no longer want or need, just get rid of them already!

Rule Number 5 for a Happy Move - Get Rid of as Much as You Can
Truly. Dump it in the recycles or trash, or take it to the Goodwill. Right now. Don't put it in a drawer to be dealt with later, because you won't deal with it later. Start off life in a new place as free from crap as possible. You'll acquire more crap, and you'll need room for it.

It took me three days to get through the stacks of boxes in the house. That doesn't seem bad, until you look at what we have stored in the breezeway, which I actually have not done, because I'm afraid to. Rick assures me that it's at capacity, and that I shouldn't hand him anything else to put in there. I believe him.

This brings up a question. If we're comfortable and sort of settled in here, with pretty much everything we need, what in the hell is all that stuff out there, and what are we going to do with it?

Part of me wants to just haul it off to the Goodwill, unopened, and probably forever un-missed. But we're in a sort of unusual situation. Our house is a duplex, and the part we aren't living in is currently occupied by renters, who have a lease until April. We have to let them stay. And once they move, we'll be fixing up that half of our house to use as guest space and a vacation rental. So there's a good chance we're going to need some of that stuff out there eventually, because we basically have another house to furnish. Sigh... some stuff just has to wait.

Rule Number 6 for a Happy Move - Let Some Things Wait
This rule has a subtext: for a limited amount of time. In this case, I'm letting all those boxes of "extra" things sit there, out of sight, only until we get the guest space sorted out. After that, if it's not baby pictures or Christmas decorations, or papers we have to keep for seven years, out it goes! If we don't need it at that point, we never will.

Just as I emptied the last "indoor box" yesterday, there was a knock at the door. The UPS man was there, and that can only mean one thing... another freaking box! It seems absurd to be shopping right now, but the reality is, there are certain things this house needs that we didn't already have, and there are hundreds of things out in storage right now that we needed at some point (I suppose), but don't need now. Nobody said this was going to be simple or easy...

I know what's in that box. It's a thick, folding foam pad, which I bought to use on our uncomfortable couch, so my son can sleep on it when he comes by for a visit in the near future, before we have actual guest space. (Kids are the only ones who can get away with that, by the way. Don't drop by planning to crash on my couch unless I gave birth to you. Everyone else can wait for the lovely guest house I'm making for you.)

I left that box sitting unopened by the door, and joined Rick by the new electric fireplace, which I love very much. You know there was an adult beverage in hand, and a good snack too.

Rule Number 7 for a Happy Move - Rest and Regroup
Once your new nest is relatively comfortable, sit down, relax, pat yourself on the back (if you can still move your arms), and take it all in. It won't be perfect. There will be much re-moving of things, as well as removing and replacing things that no longer suit your life. That's all good, and creative, and part of the art of living a happy life. But you have to take a break before the next phase, which isn't "moving" anymore, it's "nesting". 

Nesting, which happens right after moving, requires going out and finding new twigs and bits of string. Yep, even with all the stuff we have, we're going to need some different stuff. I can't face it yet. I know I need a break, and I'm taking it.

This morning, looking at that box by the door, I think I might just send it back unopened. It seems like a better plan to do what we'll have to do eventually - go out and get a really comfortable couch. Then again, that's a plan, and we all know how useful those are...

And with that, I refer you back to Rule Number 1, which actually does work in most situations.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Dancing With the Universe

We thought we had it all planned out. The move, with all the painting, the packing, the truck, the phone calls, the changes of addresses and utilities... 

Aren't we adorable, making all these plans? We know very well by now that making a plan is like dancing with the Universe and pretending it's our turn to lead.

We worked it all out. We wrote it on our calendar - in ink - yeah, smart. Scribble, scribble, pencil next. Erase, erase. Step back and see what one thing we can do next, while we wait to see how the rest of it lines up. We drove over to our house - our new home - and spent four days painting walls that we thought would take one or two days. A tiny little space. Two rooms. We didn't even paint the bathroom, and we still have all the kitchen cabinets to do. but we painted the heck out of that place, and it looks just grand. Best of all, it looks and feels more like ours. Sad old paint is now replaced with a fresh, lovely finish. I even painted the insides of the closet and the pantry, trim and ceilings and all. 

We headed back to Portland, sore and tired as if we'd just joined a gym, and jumped right into packing up what wasn't already packed, so we'd be ready for the truck and big guys we had scheduled for Thursday. We lined up someone to clean after we left. We forwarded the mail. We said a lot of good-byes. 

And then it snowed.

Surprising all of Portland, we got one of those gorgeous White Christmas kind of snows I actually do dream of each winter. Eight inches of snow in a city that isn't really used to it can make quite a mess. Trees broke all over town. Roads became impassable. Streetcars lost their electricity. Busses needed chains and still couldn't make the hills. Those same hills mocked car drivers who thought they'd give it a try anyway. And our move that was supposed to happen on Thursday (today) got pushed to Sunday, just like that.

So back to the calendar, more erasing and rescheduling, and calling and cancelling, and changing of turn-off dates so we can at least keep electricity and internet going while we're here. We did such a great job of packing, all our dishes and kitchen things are stashed in boxes, and we're just happy to have a couple of restaurants in easy (but really slippery) walking distance. 

We still have our bed set up, and our couch is here, but other than that, we're camping in a forest of boxes, just hanging out and waiting to see if we'll actually be able to move on Sunday. There's a mountain road to deal with between here and the coast, and it's the moving guys' call as to whether or not they want to make the drive. At least the sun is out now, and there are no new storms predicted for the next few days. I think it will be OK. But I'm still not writing anything in ink.

Bright side - we got to slow down and catch our breath a little bit, and we have some time to enjoy Portland before we blast off. We even had time today to take our crappy looking Ikea couch apart and replace the faded black covers with nice new off-white that already looks so much more... beachy. One less chore to do when we get there. Maybe all this waiting is actually doing us a favor.

Yes, the delay is frustrating. But we can't do anything about it, so we might as well just do our best to roll with it. Dancing with the Universe, you don't even need to learn all the steps. Sometimes it's easiest to do like a little kid, standing on someone's big grown-up feet, one arm holding on tight, the other hand out in mid air, guided by the owner of the feet, just riding along while the dance happens on its own.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

My Little Closet

It's perfect that we're moving at the beginning of a new year, when we'd normally be considering a fresh round of sorting and clearing. We've been doing this downsizing thing for years, since 2008, when we went to Ethiopia (and came back different). And you know, we're getting pretty good at it.

I can't imagine ever upsizing again. Even though we're buying a house, the total square footage is only about 1,100, and it's divided into two units. So we'll actually be living in about the same amount of space we have now, in our studio apartment, in Portland. I find this quite amusing. Half a house for us, and half for our family and friends and Airbnb guests.

The closet Rick and I have been sharing is small. Too small for one regular person's wardrobe, but we've made it work. Sort of. OK - I've been grumbling about wanting more space lately. But after watching Minimalism (highly recommended by me) on Netflix, I was inspired to give my half of the closet another good clearing. It had gotten crowded with city girl clothes I thought I needed. Truth is, I really only wear a few favorite things most of the time, and there were quite a few items in there I'd either never worn, or really didn't like at all.

Here's the Before. I know, it's not a lot to begin with. But once it was all barfed out onto the bed, it became clear that there were some really silly stowaways in there. (Did I really buy a bright green dress???)

Why do I still make these shopping mistakes? Oh hell. Who knows? We all mess up and fumble through and make silly impulse buys under stress or when we think a thing will bring us comfort. I'm surprised my apartment isn'y packed to the ceiling with dumb things I don't need, after the year i just had. But back to the closet...

Because I've been practicing, and because I actually enjoy letting go of things that aren't useful to me, the process only took about an hour this morning. Standing there in my slip, I took each piece out of the closet, one by one. If I wasn't sure about something, I tried it on. Piece by piece, I made three piles on the bed. The Now pile, the Later pile, and the Give Away pile, which actually went directly into a big black bag, so I wouldn't go back and second guess my tossing decisions. The three piles came out about even, though maybe leaning a little heavier on Give Away. If I haven't worn it in a year, I'm not likely to ever wear it. And if a favorite is worn out, it's time to replace it.

In progress here - That crazy purse was fun for my stint at Portland Fashion Week over a year ago, but now it needs a new home.

The reality of my personal "style," which admittedly is not all that stylish, is that I prefer dresses, leggings, boots, and long cardigans over anything else. I have seven dresses that are sort of a uniform for me, all from PrAna or Horney Toad, and all but one in solid colors. They work with the climate here, they're comfortable, and they can be dressed up a bit with scarves and jewelry. I have one pair of black boots on their third winter, and looking more and more like pirate boots than sassy city footwear. I also have about 20 other pairs of shoes that I'm stubbornly keeping. I like shoes and purses, and I try to let something go whenever I bring a new accessory  in. They're gaining on me, and I'll deal with them later, once I know for sure which ones aren't fitting in with my new beachy lifestyle.

Just about done. The Later clothes are in the box, so I can see them if I go looking for them. The Give Away bag grew after this picture, with the addition of two coats and a pair of shoes that hurt. No pain in my closet!

And here's the final cut, now in the closet and ready to pack and move next week. It's not much, but it's all I need. Actually, the tapestry garment bag on the left will also go in storage for a while. Fancy dresses for weddings and parties are in there. I even have room for my coats now. And notice, no jeans. I hate them and I refuse to wear them. You can't make me.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

We're Moving to the Beach

When we moved from Taos to Portland, the intention was to "date" our new city for a year, and see if it was a good match. A year turned into two, and because we still needed to be in easy reach of family in both Seattle and California, we renewed the lease on our studio apartment for a third year last spring.

After about the first year though, we could tell that we didn't want to marry Portland. Lovely as she is, we began to grow weary of the pace and chaos of city living. We started driving to the coast as often as we could. Every time we were there, we'd ask ourselves, Why don't we live here??? The answer was always the same. The beach is too far from the airport, which I needed for my frequent trips to visit my dad, and it's too expensive to live there.

We sort of believed our story, and we'd go back to Portland with sandy feet, a bag of beach rocks to crochet, and a longing in our hearts. A few months ago, I stuck a map of the Oregon coast on our bathroom wall, along with a picture of the beach, on which I wrote, We are here... Something in me also believed in the possibility of living on the coast some day.

And then my father passed from this world. After two years of being there so often, and for such long stretches of time, suddenly I had no more reason to go to California, and no real need of an airport. And along with that, in Daddy's typically protective way of providing for his girls, he left us with a house to sell. All of a sudden, living at the beach became a real possibility for me.

Several months before his passing, Dad was talking about how amazed he was that his humble tract house, bought over 50 years ago, had increased in value beyond anything he could ever have imagined. He was so proud and happy to be giving that to us. It was a strange conversation to be having. I was uncomfortable, but rather than dismiss his gift because getting it would mean losing him, I chose to honor his lifelong efforts and his love for his daughters by telling him what I planned to do with my inheritance. I'm so glad I did.

The idea of buying a house was the best way I could think of to protect my money from myself. Buying a house at the beach seemed like the perfect way to be practical and also to have something the whole family could enjoy. Daddy approved. And I know he'd be pleased and amazed all over again to see how a part of the house he and Mom raised their family in has almost magically become another house for the family to love.

The hole in my heart will always be there, but more and more it's filling with light. Rick and I have bought our little house in Seaside, Oregon, and we'll be moving in this month. Portland was a great date, but now I really feel like we're heading for home. Thank you, Daddy. Thank you, 2017. I think everything is going to be so much more than OK.