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Episode #24: The Pain and Joy of Moving This Time

We knew it was coming. We knew the day would be coming to move, when we would find a place we loved AS MUCH – or could it be possible?? When we would find a place we loved MORE than the place we had been in for 5 years. At the beginning of COVID-19 – when my daughter’s school first shut down in March of 2020 – she began online learning for the second half of 4th grade and all of 5th grade. For a year and a half she only left her bedroom to use the bathroom and to get food. My daughter did everything else in her bedroom – online class, homework and even her exercise: running in place or jumping on our exercise trampoline. She would occasionally join me on a shopping trip to the local grocery store or to Target, but mostly she wanted to stay home and minimize any exposure to COVID. And she began asking to live in a PLACE WITH STAIRS. When I probed her more, she said, “It would feel like more of a home if it was a place with stairs.” I wasn’t sure about the stairs part, but I did get that we needed to be able to spread out a bit more than we could in our 2-bedroom, 2-bath apartment less than 20 miles outside of Washington, D.C., in a suburb of Northern Virginia. We loved the openness of the space and the floor-to-ceiling windows in our dining room of the corner unit, and how from only the 2nd floor of our six-story building, we would watch our community of residents, office workers, restaurant and store workers, and diners and shoppers, gym goers, dog walkers, construction workers, garbage collectors and delivery people drive and walk by. At night, we loved watching some of these same people walk by, stop, look up and point at our home, at the strings of multi-colored lights on the floor-to-ceiling columns and the multi-colored icicle lights hanging from a spiral lighting fixture on the ceiling of our dining and living rooms. I’ve heard some people thought our place was some kind of restaurant or at the very least that an artist must live in the space because it was so creative. Funny how when I hosted my new-to-me book club dinner a few years back, one of the guests said, “Oh my God! YOU live here? I’ve been admiring these lights every morning when I go to the gym. And when I saw you post a picture of the lights on Facebook, I thought, ‘Dee Dee must know the people who live there!’” What?? Why wouldn’t she automatically have thought that we lived there?? I guess my corporate job and persona have limited the view some people who don’t know me well might have of me. Another funny thing I’ve heard over the years about the lights is, “Oh, you put them up one year at Christmas and just never took them down, right?” Well, uh, no. Yes, they are technically Christmas lights, but we first put them up BEFORE Christmas, BEFORE we put up our Christmas tree in the corner of the floor-to-ceiling windows of our dining room. And after we took down our Christmas tree, when the strings of lights on the columns and the icicle lights hanging from the spiral lighting fixture on the ceiling started to burn out, strand by strand, from being on 24/7, I hired someone year-round to get up on a very tall ladder and to replace them for us. I would buy a full year’s worth of lights as soon as Target would put them out on their shelves, often even BEFORE Halloween. Anyway, those lights were enjoyed by many from OUTSIDE of our unit and even more so by our guests. Some named our place “Candyland” and that suited because of all the kid and adult parties we threw over the years. The kids – my daughter and her friends – loved to bring out every blanket and pillow in the house and to sleep over under the lights. The space brought us and our guests so much joy over 5 years, it was hard to imagine a new space we could love AS MUCH – or even crazier – a space we would love more. The search for a new home lasted over a year. And our real estate agents – a husband and wife team – were patient and really understood what my daughter and I were looking for in our next home and how we wanted the space to FEEL. We wanted it to feel open and spacious and beautiful. We didn’t want anything too big with rooms we wouldn’t really use or a big yard to have to maintain. And we didn’t want to be too far from civilization – we like being able to walk to some shopping and dining, without having to jump into the car every time we needed or wanted to go somewhere. And we wanted my daughter to be able to stay at her same elementary school for 6th grade, even if that meant I would have to drive her myself every morning for drop off and every afternoon for pick-up. Beyond being specific about the kind of home we wanted, I stayed focused on my goal at this time in our lives, to put all my energy into my daughter and me building the best life possible for us. This is a also a time of reinvention and rebirth/beginning new things – like this podcast! And our future is filled with great joy and celebrations. And this is how our new space came to us. Every day – early morning – I would get an auto-generated email from our realtors with new listings in our area. And there it was – at about 4am when I was awakened by our geriatric pug, Bogie, because he thinks 4am – sometimes even 3am is breakfast time. I checked email, opened the daily listings message, clicked on the link and I met our new home for the first time. Just 5 blocks away from our fabulous apartment – a short 10-minute walk – and 4 stories in a townhouse that allows my daughter and me to spread out. And boy, are there ever stairs in a 4-story house! My daughter would get the top floor and then the next level down would be mine – master bedroom, bath and laundry room. By the way, on my daughter’s floor is her bedroom, bathroom and her study. Even though she has started 6th grade back in person in the classroom, it seems like many parents are holding their breath, waiting for news that schools might shut down again – if only temporarily – if COVID cases increase in our school district. If the schools do have to shut down again for any period of time, we are ready for my daughter to study and do homework in one room upstairs and to sleep in another. She’ll have to go down 2 flights of stairs to get to her meals and down a total of 3 floors to get outside to the car. And if the schools don’t shut down? Well, she’ll still have her study for homework and reading and all the built-in exercise that comes with a 4-story home. So, back to the rest of our new home, the main level is the kitchen and off of that, a deck and my office/den/TV room, the dining room and in the front of the house, over the garage and overlooking our driveway, is what we are calling the *party room*. Not that we are planning any big parties – or sort of *the more the merrier* parties that we’ve hosted over the years, because this is a time to put all my energy into building the best life for my daughter and me. And we are being very selective and intentional about who we invite into our space. Only the people who love and support us and who truly see us and know us and who GET us. And this party room makes my daughter and me so happy. We each have a favorite seat in the party room – she likes to sit on the ottoman by the railing to the foyer AND the dish of chocolates, looking out a window to the street and our driveway – and I like to sit on one of the hot pink velvet chairs that are shaped like clams, facing the armless green faux leather loveseat with its colorful pillows. The room is a party all by itself with the bar, the red cracked glass and purple beaded lighting and the orange, hot pink, ivory and chocolate colored striped and faux leopard print carpet tiles beneath all the furnishings. And the bottom level, where the 2-car garage is, that fits our one car, leaves space for another car PLUS a big area for storage bins, an extra fridge & freezer, extra drinks & paper products and various household items like extra light bulbs and batteries – what we are calling a *movie room* with a big TV, games and puzzles, a gas fireplace, a full bathroom, some of our favorite stuffed animals from movies like Monsters Inc and Frozen displayed on shelves, artwork – including 3 beautifully framed charcoals by my late Uncle Rico – and a sleeper sectional sofa for guests. Now, for the first time in many years, my daughter won’t have to give up her bedroom which has doubled as a guest room. When she was younger, it didn’t matter THAT much because she and I always co-slept. Now that she is 11, my daughter usually at least starts out the night in her own room and bed, before making her way to me and my bed. So, why did I call this episode, “The Pain and Joy of Moving This Time”? Well, we have slept in our new home [for] 10 nights now. And while waking up here on the first morning and every morning since, has been fabulous, those first few mornings sure were a bit rough. My OCD shows when things aren’t in their place and when our things are in boxes. I get into *beast* mode to unpack and put away our things and to break down the boxes, the packing materials and to remove them from our home. It took a few days to figure out most of the rubix cube that it felt like I was solving and to decide how – even though the new home is much larger than the last one – to place our thing in the new configuration. I also sort of drove the movers crazy because – and there were FIVE of them, along with ME – packing up and labeling our boxes – it wasn’t an automatic labeling of master bedroom in the old place equals master bedroom in the new place. For example, my desk would no longer go in my bedroom – it would go off the kitchen in my new office/den/TV room. And the hand-painted silver and black zebra-striped armoire in the foyer of the old place, would go in my new bedroom. And the KITCHEN. Good God. It was so painful figuring out where all our pantry items would go – they came from a coat closet I had turned into a pantry in the old place, which came with built-in shelves on the door and we had put in a shelving unit for all our dried foods and canned and jarred goods. And they fit – all the food items fit after I configured and re-configured everything until it became easily clear where all the food belonged, where the pots and pans and appliance belonged, until our dishes and glassware were all beautifully placed in the lighted glass cabinets above the counter. After a few days in our new home – and except for a small corner on the counter of items to be placed – our kitchen was in order. My daughter couldn’t believe it that day she came home from school to see it. “Is THIS really OUR kitchen??”, she asked in disbelief about the transition the room had made while she had been at school. But she wasn’t always so excited about the progress I was making in the house each day. I couldn’t wait to see her after school each day to rattle off all that I had done, while taking a few days off of work to settle us in as quickly as possible. My daughter doesn’t share my OCD gene and she doesn’t have the same sense of urgency that I have to get things done and to put and keep things in order. If something can get done tomorrow, she will always choose tomorrow. And I am always looking at my lists of things to get done and trying to get just ONE more thing done each day before I will allow myself a little time to relax. My daughter – because she is so different than I am – is also my teacher. She reminded me during this move – on multiple occasions – to SLOW DOWN and to be more PRESENT. And to listen to her about her day, in this new year of school, back in the classroom for the first time in over a year and a half. In this new year of school for her where she is in 6th grade, at the top grade in elementary school. And so I listened to her and after school made sure to ask about her day and to make room for her to tell me about the book she is reading and her new favorite show before rattling off all I’ve done at the house. Mind you, all I’ve done at the house. FOR US. For my daughter and me. For my daughter to get that home she asked for. WITH STAIRS. So, a full week into sleeping in our new home, we got to about 95% “there”. Almost every piece of artwork was hung up, almost all the curtains, every single moving box and all the packing materials were hauled off by the recycling company, all our storage units were in the garage where all the recycling had waited until recycling day finally came around. And we hosted our favorite aunt and uncle for lunch that day – Tia Nikki and Tio Mark came over for a 4-hour visit – a tour of our new home and a leisurely sipping of bubbly and eating appetizers and lunch. We served grapes, strawberries, chocolate hummus, avocado hummus, tortilla chips, pretzels, aloutte cheese, cucumbers, cantaloupe and I made a couscous salad with fresh lemon juice, chickpeas, roasted red pepper strips, sliced black olives and extra virgin olive oil, a rainbow salad  with blueberries, mini peppers, 3-colored tomatoes, shredded carrots and toasted sunflower seeds and a fresh two-colored green bean salad with feta cheese, toasted pine nuts and olive oil. And the rainbow salad was dressed simply as always with olive oil and a dash of balsamic vinegar. AND without knowing it, I made one of Tio Mark’s favorites: boneless country pork ribs with BBQ sauce. And I also made salmon with lemon and white wine. Speaking of wine, we enjoyed a bottle of Veuve Cliquot to celebrate our new home and Sonoma-Cutrer chardonnay with lunch. The next day, friends came over and we walked 10 minutes to the annual Fine Arts Festival and had brunch at a local restaurant. And the pain of the move is behind me. It’s like after giving birth, many women might think, “I’m never doing THAT again.” But then many women do have more kids. They forget the pain after they see all the beauty they created in their baby, in this little person who does amazing things like smile and laugh and roll over and start to walk and talk. That’s where I am now with this move, enjoying all of the beauty I have created. Even though I know a few more deliveries are coming and will need to be put together: the new coffee table for the party room, the new custom-made stool for the vanity in my bathroom. When my handyman comes back this week, I have another list of projects for him, a much shorter list this time because we are in the final stretch of this move. My daughter already commented just a few nights – or maybe it was only after just nights – of sleeping in our new home that she forgot what it was like to be in the old place, that she got so used to the new place so quickly. Anyway, when I reflect on the day or two leading up to this move and on the first day or two in the new home, I want to tell my future self – whenever we may move again – I want to tell myself a few things I’d like to do differently. Like, please, really this time – get rid of more things before you move, especially any food that you’re really not going to eat (or that your daughter isn’t really going to eat) AND make sure your daughter has really weeded out her stuff and isn’t keeping any of those little plastic toys you get at Chuck E. Cheese’s. AND doing try to PACK a whole room at a time and then check it off. AND be sure to set aside not only clean sheets and towels, but also know in which boxes to find your pillows and comforters, too! What I mean by don’t try to pack and unpack a whole room at a time is that life isn’t that compartmentalized. You might need something from every room – even if it’s just a little something from every room each day. Know where the essentials are like everyone’s supplements and vitamins – even the dog’s – and your toiletries and fresh changes of clothes and shoes. And where the coffee, coffee pot and coffee filters are. I thought I was so clever during this move when I knew where all the coffee stuff was – including my favorite coffee mug, only to have tucked them away in a drawer in the new kitchen where I couldn’t find them until the next morning. Good thing I usually prepare my coffee to be ready to go the night before, so I still managed to have my coffee the next morning! Oh, and make sure you can find a spoon for the dog’s canned food. I had his food and all his supplements at my fingertips – and even his baby wipes, diapers and diaper covers – but I had to improvise for a day or so on scooping out his canned stew and canned pumpkin with the measuring spoon we use for his powder supplement. So, I’m off to a new week, beginning our second week in our new home and I’m able to enjoy it and to be more present, especially for my daughter. She will turn 12 this weekend and I want it to be her best birthday ever as she and I start our new life in our new home.

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