Wanted: Friend, Must Love….

Still waiting for our appraisal, so for now all I can do is sit and wait. Sitting isn’t actually a bad thing, I’ve been working myself to the point of exhaustion, I need the break. Meanwhile I contemplate the future. As I move into a new area of California, knowing no one, I began to think about how much my life will change. I won’t know a soul. I started thinking about ways to meet people. I have no little ones to drop off at school, so that’s out. I won’t be working outside our house. I hope to be working inside our home, we would love to find an old house to fix up, and of course my plan to return to art keeps me inside. So where do I go from there? I could of course do my Nancy Drew best and investigate any and all artistic opportunities, associations, clubs, etc., but the truth is that I’m kind of a loner. I’m not a joiner, I lack a certain amount of enthusiasm required for many of life’s group activities. Let’s just say I could never be a game show contestant. It begs me to ask once again, “What now?” Maybe I need a personal ad for friendship.

Wanted: Friend, Kindred Spirit, Chum, Cohort, Compadre, and/or Sidekick

(No creeps or racists need apply)

Must enjoy antique stores, flea markets, and non-toilet paper cover kinds of art

I love art museums, and I like to really look at the work, the brush strokes, technique, and style.

Must enjoy making fun of others in a non-judgmental, only for fun kind of way (This activity primarily has to do with people who really should own a mirror, or have someone in their life who loves them enough to say, “I don’t think that is a good idea.” )

Cooking and baking are activities I enjoy, it would be nice if you did too, or at the very least be willing to take some of it home so I don’t eat it all.

The ability to laugh at yourself, as well as at me as you pick me up once I have injured myself AGAIN.

Understand that as much as I might grow to love and enjoy you and your company, I love and adore my husband and spending time with him, so I really don’t do weekend girlfriend stuff.

I Hate, yes Hate, movies where women dance around together. I have no reasoning for this other than my lack of enthusiasm, and the fact that it causes me to cringe. I have far too much dignity to dance around anywhere, and I really don’t know any women who get together and dance around. If I did I would insist that they stop.

I don’t watch Honey Boo-Boo, Real Housewives of anywhere, or reality television at all, unless it involves actual skill. Top Chef, Project Runway, Chopped, etc., much more my thing.

I love to read and share a good book.

I like independent films, can barely tolerate the sight of Tom Cruise, Bob Redford was my first love, Brad (young Bob) is a distant second, but no one compares to the guy I’m married to.

I was born and raised Catholic, but am very open to any religion, creed, or strange dancing around the fire religious ritual anyone else wants to do (unless of course it is a group of dancing women, because that is a deal breaker)

I can and often do use foul language. I try really hard not to, but I never rebelled in my teenage years so I’m doing it my fifties. (I think it has much to do with being a repressed Catholic)

I don’t particularly care for malls. I actually hate shopping for anything that isn’t beat-up, vintage, or antique. I will however, accompany a friend who wants to partake in activities that aren’t my favorite. I am definitely not an “it’s all about me”, kind of person.

I’m a giver. There are people in my life that somehow misconstrue my generosity as “showing off”. Yes, I can do a lot of things, but I am not doing them to say to everyone, “Hey, look at what I can do!” I really truly actually love to do things for other people, and quite frankly there is nothing so painful for me as being the center of attention.

I don’t consider myself an animal person, but they seem to like me. I don’t dislike dogs, but I do dislike noise, therefore I am a cat person.

 I have a rod of self-righteous steel in my spine. I have a long fuse, but beware the person who lights it, my temper is infamous amongst my loved ones. I am loving and compassionate. I have a huge heart for the less fortunate. I don’t have a single selfish bone in my body. I cry at television commercials, and have a very difficult time with man’s inhumanity to man.

      And I’m nice, really, really nice.

That’s all I can think of in the moment. Hopefully I won’t need to place any ads, hopefully I will meet another slightly klutzy, artsy, nice woman who would like to make a new friend.

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Mixed Emotions

The realtors have come and gone. No, the house isn’t sold. We are bravely, or stupidly (depending on your opinion and occupation), selling it ourselves. Still have yet to figure out its worth, somewhere around invaluable if you ask me. I spent the day photographing every room. I’m not ready to put up pictures just yet. My critical eye found something in every shot that needs to be attended to, but it really does look beautiful. We did take the time to have it appraised. All I can say is that by the time the appraiser left I was beaming. Self confidence is not my forte. I have been worrying and fussing for months now, and I am happy to say that someone actually noticed. He still hasn’t given us a price, he said something along the lines of our house belonging in an art museum, and therefore a little difficult to comp. That’s OK with me. I have spent years creating this home, surrounding us with things we love, adding artistic touches throughout. The realtors quite frankly didn’t get it, the appraiser did. He walked through our home and oohed and aah-ed at every detail. He told me that I should decide what I wanted to keep because he is sure that most everyone that walks through the door will want it all. The final compliment came when in lieu of payment for his services he said he would take a piece of art. Talk about an ego boost. So I am happy that someone appreciates what I do, but so very sad to be leaving it. It so happens that my Dad’s house will be for sale soon as well, and it is the last place my Mom lived, so for me this loss is doubled. Not only will I leave my home, but there is a good chance that I won’t get to say goodbye to my parent’s home at all. But it is life, and so as I sat thinking about it all the other morning I wrote a few words. I have put them with a photo of Dad’s house, as I have yet to take a decent exterior shot of my own.

 

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Beginning The Goodbye

I think I might just see the end in sight. As I said the other day, I’ve been dragging my feet, or in my case, my knee. I didn’t want to move, but as often happens, life sometimes makes our choices for us, this one wasn’t mine to choose. I believe we will be for sale by Wednesday. The last few details to be finished in the coming days. The endless weeks of primping my house as if she were going to her first prom are coming to an end. Freshly painted, immaculately clean (OK, so the cat hair tumbleweeds can be an issue), and dressed to the nines. I’m like a proud mother sending my girl off to the dance, and as any mother can tell you it’s never easy, except this time it will be me leaving my nest behind. I will worry and fret that she is loved and cared for in the same way I did. There has been much life lived in this house. My daughter was married from it, my son grew up in it, both Dan and I lost a parent while living in it. We found security within its walls as our life fell apart. As long as we had our home we felt that everything would be OK.  We celebrated our love and marriage of twenty-five years in it. When we left Chicago (actually the Village of Lindenhurst), where we bought our first home, we left behind a piece of our hearts as well as a sneaky reminder of us. Dan carved our names into the bottom of a post he installed between the living room and dining room, and had the kids sign as well. It remains to be seen if we will leave something so tangible here, but we will leave the ghost of us in its walls . The laughter, the tears, the heartaches, successes, and so much love, are the essence of what a home should be, and they are here, and in our hearts and minds. I only wish for those who follow the same kind of bond, the same kind of love, the same kind of precious memories that make a house a home. I will miss this place, my beautiful garden, but most of all I will treasure the memories that were created here.

 

I have made much of how I will miss my garden. I was looking through old photos tonight and thought I would share what our vision created.  A before and after, an engagement party for Jessica and John that we held there, and finally one garden project that will travel with us. The table that Dan and I built together. We will have to build a new garden around it.

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When I Grow Up

When my son Brian was just short of his sixth birthday he came to me with a very earnest look on his face. “Mommy”, he said, “When I grow up should I be a taxi driver or a science test?” I told him that I wanted him to be a “science test”. He is now studying to be a sommelier. The memory of that conversation came to me in the middle of another sleepless night. I really believed for a very long time now that I never figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. There were of course flashes of interest, in the sixth grade it was archeology. I read everything I could get my hands on to do with ancient Rome and Greece. I knew Greek Mythology by heart. Then there was the realization that it might just involve science, somewhat doable, but in a round about way it might also involve (cue the dramatic music of dread)…math…Done! No math, no how! Then there was of course (as any good Catholic girl will tell you) the call to God. I thought for a very, very, very short time about becoming a nun. (Didn’t we all?) Trust me as a romanticizing, day dreaming, fourteen year old, the idea of becoming a “Bride of Christ” sounds wonderful and mysterious. You find yourself praying a lot and feeling very pious. I think a very short reflection on some of the bitter and angry nuns I had dealt with in my academic career brought that idea to a screeching halt. Don’t get me wrong. I have had the immense pleasure of being educated by some lovely human beings, who also happen to have been nuns, but in my young mind the bitter and angry ones far outweighed the nice ones. For a while I thought I might want to be a teacher. I think I would have been a good one, but in the summer that I was fifteen I taught art in a Chicago Park District program to children four through eight years old. I was bitten, kicked, and had my glasses broken by an obnoxious five-year old who thought that while flying high on the swing set it might be fun to hit my face with his feet. I was done yet again. The honest truth was I never really thought about an artistic career. Since I had no training I had no idea of the endless possibilities that were available to me. I did always have a flair for design. I think I may have mentioned here before that I didn’t like playing with Barbie dolls as much as I enjoyed decorating their house. In my sleeplessness last night I did a lot of thinking. I had a complete meltdown right before bed (which robbed my dear husband of some much-needed sleep, sorry Honey). I was bemoaning my fate as a lost human being wandering the earth with no focus, no plan, no home. (OK, so it wasn’t quite that dramatic) It’s just that I, like so many other women, are our families. We lost ourselves somewhere along the way of countless hours of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, laundry, homework, bedtime rituals, etc., we are made up of the pieces that address our family needs, and forget our own. I was feeling angry and frustrated last night. Last year when I started this blog and art project it was the first time in my adult life that I was solely focused on something for myself. Then fate stepped in, appearing in the form of unemployment, it laughed in my face, and it filled my mind with fear and worry and not so much with creativity. So many times over the course of the year I found myself pushing the project to the back burner because guilt wouldn’t allow me to put myself first. I wouldn’t let myself be first. Now Dan has a new job, Jessica has moved away, I am moving away from Brian, and I am also moving away from Gabby and Kingston, the motherless children I care for and have grown to love. The only thing I have been in thirty years is a wife and mother. I dabbled at my art, but I never fully committed myself to me. It all came to a head last night. As I sat here all night (quite frankly despicably full of self-pity) I remembered what Brian had said. In the last few weeks as I have been packing up our lives, I came across my diary. It’s the one I mentioned here before. Along with it were pages from other older, younger diaries. Amongst the writing on those pages were some dreams for the future. First and foremost was my goal of becoming Mrs. Robert Redford (Don’t worry. Dan is well aware of my love for “Bob”), but there was also an entry that while it has the day and month, it does not have the year. My Aunt Bernie had just given birth to my cousin Michael. In my little girl penmanship I wrote about what a beautiful baby he was, and that I wanted to be a mom when I grew up. So maybe I did know all along. I think I was pretty good at it. I’d like to think I’m still good at it, trying my best to not interfere, but to gently guide and suggest. I’m sure that many people would chalk this up to “empty nest syndrome”.  Sure, some of that might be true, but with me there has always been this feeling of unfulfilled promise. God-given talents that are sorely untapped. Dan got angry with me last night, and that isn’t something that happens often, but he was right. He said that I keep throwing up roadblocks for myself. He also said that I won’t let myself be first, and that he is my biggest supporter. All of that is true. It really is time to figure things out. I know I can’t blame anyone but myself, and I know only I can change me. Time to grow up, time for a new dream, and since Bob and I are both already married to other people, that ship has sailed. (Oh come on, Dan knows he is the love of my life.)

After my meltdown and sleepless night I sat on the couch this morning with my coffee and watched last night’s Project Runway. I love the show. I love to see the creativity and imagination at work. I also envy the amazing sewing talent. One of the lovelier nuns I have run across is Sr. Janelle. She was my sophomore year sewing teacher. Try as she might, as kind and patient as she was, I wasn’t very good. I have amazing talent in these hands as long as there isn’t an iota of math involved. Sewing can be very mathematical. On a commercial break in the show came an ad for AARP. (We are not members. It’s honestly a little upsetting when you get your first invite to join. You find yourself feeling angry and insulted that they would presume to think you are that “old”. I know there are many benefits, but my brain just doesn’t want to go there. I am after all, only 54!) The ad featured Tim Gunn, and it couldn’t have been more appropriate. He talks about reinventing yourself, rolling the dice and taking a chance. He was a teacher for twenty-nine years, and he was fifty when Project Runway came along. It was just what I needed to hear. Maybe my former fiancée (God) is trying to send me a message. Now if He could just send me some movers….

Facing My Fears About The Future

Here I go again, whine, whine, whine…just kidding.  Tonight is the result of getting what I asked for. I’m alone. These days if you are in sales more than likely you do a little traveling, or a lot of traveling. Dan has been on the road for roughly twenty years. I know some people enjoy travel, and I think he did at first, but after the hundredth hotel room, hotel restaurant dinner, and all the long lonely phone calls with your significant other, it starts to get a little old. I hate when he is away. I hate going to bed without him. I actually spend most of those nights on the couch. Of course these days are better than days of old. (Boy I’m really dating myself here) When Dan started traveling the kids were pretty young and our only means of communication were beepers and pay phones. Thank God some things have changed. There were days when I didn’t leave the house because I was waiting to hear from him. Cell phones certainly make life immensely better.

On the home front things are still not done. It seems like every time I think we are ready to list I find something else that needs to be done. I know I’ve probably done ten times more than need be, but I really care about my home. As I’ve grown older and realized what’s really important in this life I’ve learned to let go of a few things (I just can’t seem to remember what they are in the moment). I’m ashamed to admit that I had more than one occasion where I was upset with Dan or the kids for bringing someone home unexpectedly. I am again my Mother’s daughter. My house must be impeccable for guests. In all fairness to me I believe what I said to them was true, and that is that Jessica and Brian’s jobs were to be good students, Dan was out working, this house was my job. I always said that if someone came here and the house wasn’t clean they wouldn’t leave and say that Brian was a slob, or Jessica was messy, or that Dan’s house was filthy, I felt it was always a reflection on me. I was sure that Brian’s fourteen year old friends were telling their mothers that his mom was a terrible housekeeper. There were of course times when my irritation was more than justifiable. Like the St. Patrick’s Day when I was on the couch in my messy living room with a respiratory infection.  Dan arrived with a limo full of beer salesmen who all needed to use my bathroom. Sick with no makeup and an untidy house and he is bringing in not one, but three or four strangers, really???? It was definitely not a lucky day for my mostly Irish husband that day. I have come to realize that things don’t have to be perfect, but I think that right now I am having a little separation anxiety. I think I have become a little obsessed with making sure the next family that lives inside these walls loves this place as much as we do. It’s time to set another deadline for myself because I fear at this point this house may turn into my next 365 day project. I also think that I might just be dragging my feet a little so I don’t have to leave. The house is clean, it is beautiful, it is time for me to let go. The truth is that I’m a little scared of the future right now. California was a hard move, leaving behind not only friends and family, but my life, the life I knew. What made it easier was having my children. I think I needed them more than they needed me. Now Jessica is in New York, and I will be doing the one thing I said I could never do, I’m moving away from one of my children. Brian will still be living and working in the Temecula area. He will be only fifty or so miles from where we hope to settle, but it will break my heart none-the-less. It’s taken eleven years, but this is my home. If I feel lonely I can call a friend to meet for coffee, or I can run to the cheese store in Old Town Temecula. I’ve befriended the owner and we have on more than one occasion sat in the back of her shop and had some cheese and a glass of wine. There are also the ladies at my favorite antique mall who are familiar with my roaming the aisles. Even things as mundane as grocery shopping where the cashiers are familiar faces. I am starting over once again, and admittedly nervous.  No lifelines this time, just me, myself, and I, trying to find new friends, and new places to go. Maybe time for a little reinvention as well. I don’t mean as in changing who I am, but more about who I was meant to be. New move, new focus on art. I guess I do have one security blanket after all.