Moving Day

red letter dayIt’s odd how the most important moments in our lives are marked. It’s not so much by the grand pageantry of big events, but rather the small details that define our daily circumstances. We just don’t know it at the time. The little moments happen, building a collection of days and weeks that gradually mounts, moving us along until one day we look around and notice we’re no longer standing where we used to be. 

As expected, moving day on campus was a flurry of activity. Anxious parents, faces wrought with concern, clucked and fussed over their newly-minted “adult” children while those same children worked to acquaint themselves with their new surroundings. Hard as it was to wrap my mind around it — my nephew was part of this new batch of freshmen at Ohio State. An avalanche of applications, test scores and campus visits now behind him, he met his roommates and unpacked his modest supply of dorm stuff. Class schedule in hand, he seemed set for this monumental First Day of the Rest of His Life. 

Although I’m not his mother, an odd mix of emotions washed over me after we said our goodbyes. As I stood, squinting in the sunlight, watching his broad, grown-up shoulders fade and disappear into the darkness of the dormitory, feelings of pride, nervousness, nostalgia and sadness ran together in a silent churning sea of sentiment. The day he was born naturally leapt to mind alongside flickering memories of massive Lego builds, movie nights, school plays, sporting events and spontaneous trips to McDonalds. 

I felt a smile tug on the corners of my mouth when I recalled the time, just before he left for camp, when he gobbled three cheeseburgers I was sure he’d never finish. The the hot sting of tears followed quickly after the realization that he was no longer that little boy on his way to summer camp and cheeseburgers no longer an effective currency for affection. 

As we drove away I glanced out the window, noticing hundreds of bright-eyed coeds walking and laughing as they unloaded boxes or rested in slanted rays of sun on late-summer lawns — I felt emotion rise up in me once more. Only this time I recognized it for what it was: a beginning. It is the time when everything is shiny and new and the world rolls out in front of you like a warm and welcome ribbon of highway. It was at that moment—that little moment—that I knew it wasn’t the goodbye that was taunting me. No, caught instead in the corners of my mind… was the quiet turning of the page. 

Debt Free(dom)

cutting up cardLike a recovering alcoholic sampling the taboo taste of a beloved beverage, I handed the cashier my plastic. The ease with which I did so, accompanied by my effortless smile gave absolutely no hint to the hesitation lurking just beneath the surface. Though the purchase was justified and the actual money in the bank, there was a tiny place inside of me that still remained uneasy.

Once you’ve climbed out of the deep, dark hole of credit card debt—finding yourself back in the black—the former aches and pains of actually digging that hole occasionally come back to haunt you. I am not proud to admit that I was in debt — having only recently brushed the remainder of that dirt off my less-than-stellar credit report. But I am relieved to say that those days are behind me.

Sifting through stacks and stacks of old mail over the weekend reminded me of those darker days. Except that while I was living them, I technically didn’t know they were “darker.” It would be awhile before I actually realized how deep I had dug. I was in fact, living it up back then! I was happily buying new furniture, clothes and shoes, paying for manicures, pedicures, salon visits, gym memberships and housekeeping services.

A close friend did occasionally ask me whether or not I should be spending so freely. But I brushed it off as them being too “conservative” with their own money and “fearful” of bad things that would “never happen.” I was gainfully employed, single with no dependents and the proud owner of a seemingly endless supply of credit. It never occurred to me to be concerned because I was always able to keep up with the payments. If I could pay the bills every month, then this was all stuff that I could afford. Until it wasn’t.

Being young and stupid, I never gave much thought to all of the uncertainties out there. I’d done my homework, gotten a degree and been blissfully employed since graduation. Things like personal illness and the company you work for going under weren’t even on my radar. Until they were.

Back then—during this hedonistic time of living like some kind of entitled Hilton or Kardashian—I fell ill with a serious case of pneumonia. On top of that, just prior to the pneumonia, I’d left the security of a lower paying government job to accept an exciting new position at a rapidly-growing publishing company and had zero sick leave in the bank. On doctor’s orders, I missed an entire month of work and wages. Suddenly making those bills was a little bit harder.

And then the “rapidly-growing” company folded. Making paying those bills all but impossible. I managed. I didn’t file for bankruptcy or anything, but I did have to move 2,000 whole miles back east to live with mom and dad, working a minimum wage job until I could find a better one. Going through the ancient mail was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. First there were the bank statements, bills and invoices… a.k.a. Evidence of All the Fun. Followed by a trickle and later a heavy stream of medical bills, debt consolidation packages and various hand-written notes of lists I’d made inventorying all of my debts and monthly bills.

But it was good for me to see how the entire ordeal had actually unfolded. What started out as a simple housekeeping exercise wound up being a true moment of reckoning. I’d often wondered, through the years, as I struggled to pay down the balances on these debts: How did this happen? How did I rack up all of this debt? And now I know. I can see it all from a distance. It was as though it had happened to someone else… because in a way, it did happen to someone else. I am no longer that person.

Thanks to the support of my parents, a couple of really good friends and an extremely fiscally responsible soon-to-be husband, I am learning the value of having money IN the bank before I have any fun with it. I still love furniture, clothes, shoes, salon visits and travel and I would LOVE to pay someone to do all of the unpleasant, laborious tasks that accompany adulthood. But since I’m neither a Hilton nor a Kardashian, I’ve lain to rest my Visa Gold & Mastercard shovel and am enjoying the freedom that comes with “living it up” — within my means.

5 Reasons NOT to Watch the “Criminal Minds” Marathon While Completely Alone

Recently, while home alone for the night, I had the brilliant idea of watching a four-hour Criminal Minds marathon. Now, I know what you are thinking… the mind reels that one may actually be capable of sitting on one’s own @$$ for that long a period, however, I can assure you that I DID get up from time to time.

I managed to climb out of the comfort of my recliner for several reasons. I got up for pizza, to use the bathroom, to lock ALL of the doors, to feed the cat, to close ALL of the blinds and windows, to get a diet pop, to check EVERY square inch of the basement and ummmm… to get more pizza.

I should mention here that I am quite familiar with this program about the FBI’s BAU a.k.a. the Behavioral Analysis Unit. (By the way, don’t you just adore using acronyms? I do. It makes me feel so much more intelligent and worldly) Anyhoo… I absolutely LOVE the show (about as much as I like using acronyms). And it doesn’t usually matter whether or not I am alone when I watch it because I know it is purely fiction.

Well, fiction that is based on fact that is. Yes it is fact-based fiction about the psychological profiling of real-live nut-bags who like to stalk, maim, torture or kill otherwise normal citizens like you and me. Which is why, perhaps, that it may NOT have been in my best interest to watch four whole episodes whilst being alone in a big, empty house that is still relatively new to me.

Here are just a FEW of the reasons why watching four hours of this particular program (all by oneself) is probably not the brightest of ideas:

  1. You’re convinced that a stranger has indeed been stalking you for 6 months (even if you’ve only lived at your current address for 4).
  2. You’re certain that the friendly neighbors who love to chat you up everytime you pull into the driveway or push your garbage can to the curb are indeed serial killers who are hiding a secret torture chamber beneath the unassuming, non-descript-yet-mysterious-anyway grey tarp in their back yard.
  3. When the Fedex man arrives on your doorstep the following morning carrying an unexpected package — you refuse to answer the door no matter how interesting or impressive said parcel may look.
  4. You believe it IS entirely possible that while you were away one weekend some creeper or creepers managed to break into your home and hide tiny cameras in every room… leaving absolutely ZERO trace of their ever having been there. And they are watching you at this very moment. And laughing.
  5. You are 100% sure that the single dude on the corner with the perfectly-manicured lawn and glass animal collection in his front window is a sociopath currently working on an entirely different type of “collection” in the garage that he never seems to use.

Comfort Zone

I didn’t need to call the cast of CSI to properly deduce what had transpired while my back was turned… A tipped-over plastic cup, a cell phone on the floor and a sheepish-looking cat hiding out beneath the table told me all I needed to know.

My 2012 vehicle registration form, passport renewal packet, voter registration application and my sister’s 40th birthday card (signed, sealed, addressed and stamped) laid purposefully on the dining room table. These items that were too important to forget or misplace and required attention in the near future were now soaking wet. Of course, the bill from the cable company (that I’d already paid) also sat there… dry as a bone.

The table was empty save for these items and we have no children running around so naturally I considered it safe to sit my cup of water and cell phone right next to them while I went to make the bed and check email. More wrong I could not have been. You see, Stanley has an affinity for knocking things off of the places where they sit. He especially like desks and tables. Pens, reading glasses, cell phones, pieces of paper, paper clips, keys and now apparently cups with liquid in them are not safe when placed on a table or desk. 

Here he is on my mom and dad's kitchen table... being entertained by a pencil.

Don’t ask me why these items are far more interesting to him than the dozens of cat toys I intentionally leave strewn about. If it has value, he wants to knock it over. Now, for some reason, end tables, shelves and coffee tables don’t interest him. Which is why it is safe to place breakable items on them. Thank God some places are still sacred.

But I can’t really blame him. It is my fault. I let my guard down and didn’t realize how comfortable he has become in his new home. He doesn’t go on his little sneak-attack, rampages of destruction when he’s in a new or unfamiliar place. He slinks around, literally lying low, slipping in and out of the shadows until he gets the lay of the land. It is then and only then—when he is truly comfortable—that the mischief really begins.

Well, welcome home Stanley. I’m glad that you feel happy and content in your new digs. I only hope the DMV doesn’t mind when I show up with a wrinkled registration form next week. And that they believe me while reluctantly taking the compromised form from my hand as I tell them in the cheeriest, most confident voice I can muster: “The cat did it. And I swear Mr. Motor Vehicle Man… it was only water.”

Stir Crazy

Only three weeks in and I have found myself at somewhat of an interesting crossroads. The sleeping in has been quite dreamy, the zero-pressure atmosphere delightful and the yoga is devine. But not unlike Tom Hanks’ character in the movie Cast Away… I have simply had enough of myself. And I don’t even have a volleyball named Wilson to talk to.

That’s right, I said it. I have grown weary of my own company AND the sound of my own voice as it bounces off the ceiling while the cat just sits there blinking at me. This is unchartered territory for me and it is a rather strange land in which to navigate. It’s no wonder that people get so weird when they live alone for years and years. It’s really not all that surprising that some wind up writing lengthy manifestos and exhibiting questionable behavior. If left alone for too long a human being can get… well… a little whacko.

No worries, dear readers. I haven’t begun writing a manifesto or threatening letters to the government or Elizabeth Hasselbeck on The View (even though I AM tempted because she is just THAT annnoying). I am not assembling explosives in my basement or digging a bunker or anything like that. I am just becoming acutely aware of my own, personal need to interact with people a bit further beyond cyberspace.

Not only do I feel the need to reach out, yesterday I actually got out to do a little shopping, run a few errands, etc. Oh what an exciting expedition it was! It wasn’t until I opened my mouth to speak to another human being that I realized how much I needed to get out. The teller at the bank looked at me like I’d spontaneously sprouted a second head right before her very eyes when I finally choked out the proper words to communicate to her that I needed to open an account.

I wondered what her deal was giving me the look she was giving me and then I suddenly realized it was because I was nervous. ME! Nervous! I will talk to anyone! I DO talk to anyone and everyone… and yet it had been just long enough since I’d spoken to someone other than Lee or Stanley the cat that I felt a bit nervous at the sound of my very own voice directed toward another living, breathing person.

I practically leapt across the counter and told the cashier at Big Lots the entire story of Lee’s proposal when she complimented me on my engagement ring. I got about three sentences in before I heard the little voice inside my head telling me to shut the hell up, take my purchases and go because hello?? SHE DOESN’T CARE.

In the pasta aisle at the grocery store I wanted to tell the sweet, old lady who smiled at me that I had just found the missing remote to my DVD player amidst the stacks and stacks of boxes in the garage and also that I couldn’t believe the garbage man hadn’t come yet to gather our trash! I mean, how long is that can going to have to sit on the curb anyway!?!?

Do not fear. I didn’t act on the impulse in the pasta aisle or any other aisle for that matter. I quietly selected my items and wandered the store, browsing and just enjoying my freedom in general. For I know that ALL TOO SOON I will be punching a time clock and wishing, longing… PINING for these days of pure, unstructured time.

Soooo… there’s that… and the fact that I am also taking the appropriate measures to ensure continued and sustained sanity by messaging many of my friends and contacts in the city to set up brunch/lunch/dinner/coffee ASAP. And to those of you “friends and contacts in the city” whom I have contacted to DO brunch/lunch/dinner/coffee ASAP who may be reading thisPlease do NOT be afraid. I promise to drink only decaf and mum’s the word about the garbage man. Even though he IS always totally late in picking up the trash.

Marc Cohn, Black Ops and Cat Doors

Sufficiently “loaded” with kitty tranquilizers, the 140-mile trip south with the cat went off without a hitch. Stanley slept or “meditated” with his eyes half open most of the time and only fussed at me when the Marc Cohn CD I had been playing reached it’s end. Seriously folks, he squeaked and squeaked at me when the music stopped and I had no idea why given that he’d been so relaxed the entire trip.

The only thing that was different (near as I could tell) was that my Marc Cohn music had stopped. So just for grins I started the disc over again and like magic… he laid down his furry, little head and went back to sleep. A-MA-ZING. Who knew Marc Cohn had such an impact on critters of the feline variety?

I’ve moved a million times (with a cat in tow) and have read a million and one times that it is well advised to introduce your kitty to their new environment a little at a time. Like… a ROOM at a time. Well, given that this is the first time Lee has ever had a pet in his house, I didn’t feel like doing all of the corraling and tip-toeing and Ooo!! Watch out for the cat-ing. So I just decided to wing it and let him OUT of his carrier to explore his new surroundings as he so desired.

Yep. That idea was genius. I zipped open the carrier, he went straight to the basement and wedged himself tightly in a corner between an old bed and two walls as though a tornado were headed this way. Oops. Maybe I should have done the room-by-room thing after all?

I did manage to cajole him out of his fox hole with some food, smooth talk and a little petting. I mean, he is male. And he HAS come up to the main floor at least once or twice to do a little recon… and for more food. So I know we’ll get there… eventually. However, I can’t help but feel like some wicked stepmother whose has locked her child away in the basement like Cinderella. But, he’s using his litter box, eating, drinking and venturing upstairs on the occasional intel-gathering, Black Ops mission… so what more can I ask for at this point, right?

Besides Stanley’s assimilation to the new habitat, I had one other major concern. Due to the floor plan of the house, it was necessary for us to install a cat door in an interior door from the kitchen leading down to the basement where his litter box is located. Stanley has never had to deal with a cat door or any closed door for that matter. So the question has loomed large for over a month as to whether or not he would learn how to utilize this contraption in order to “do his business” in the appointed area.

Well… the one good thing that has come out of this giving-him-the-run-of-the-place faux pas is that his great affinity for the basement — and sheer, blind terror of anything non-basement related, has inadvertently caused him to learn how to use his little cat door as he desperately flies through it every… single… time I haul or coax his fluffy ass up the stairs. I guess if history has taught us anything it is that fear can be an excellent motivator.

Scratches on the Hardwood … And a Good Ol’ Dose of Reality

Who would have thought something as simple as scratched hardwood floors would trigger a full-scale meltdown? And yet… it did.

I have shared in past entries that I have occasional panic attacks and am somewhat of a high-strung, high-anxiety being. I am a bit of a delicate, contradictory creature in that I often fully embrace life, grabbing onto adventure firmly with both hands… And yet, I am also plagued by excessive worry and bouts with anxiety.

For weeks leading up to my move, Lee had been telling me that I seemed so “calm” for someone who had recently quit her job (without having secured a new one) and was moving all of her worldy possessions into a new home. And you know what? I kind of agreed with his level of perplexedness on this one because “calm” is NOT a word that anyone would really ever use to describe me. But I was calm. I had been calm. Perfectly sane and calm.

Until Sunday night. That night, as I packed a duffel bag with a few items and enough clothes for one night, I began to have a good, old-fashioned anxiety attack. My heart was pounding, I was sick to my stomach and my mind was racing. And the odd thing was that I had no real reason for such an attack. I’d had a relaxing but productive week and was now going back to my old house to get the last remnants of my things, see my parents and return. Simple.

Monday morning as I woke… it was still there. And it has followed me throughout the last 48 hours. My mom, sensing my unessessary anxiety and worry tried to keep me grounded and focused, telling me that I didn’t have to rush back or finish by any strict amount of time so I ought to just slow down, stay one more day to get everything finished and chill out a little bit. It wasn’t as though I had a job to return to… just my fiance, yoga mat and more boxes to unpack. And all of those things would STILL be there the next day. 

It wasn’t until the landlord came in and pointed out some deep scratches on the hardwood floor made by my computer chair. See, another thing about me is that it takes VERY LITTLE… to make me feel guilty. MINUTIA. I can be made to feel like shit with so much as a minsinterpreted sideways glance.

And that was the last straw. Operation Meltdown had begun.

I called Lee who was only a little bit put out by the fact that this was ruining our dinner with President Obama. He was also a tad bit concerned about the sick children all over the world who probably wouldn’t make it through the night due to my decision to stay on another day to settle my affairs. And he was slightly disappointed that by my being gone another night he would be forced to watch Sports Center rather than Seinfeld all evening long. 

But then—as unexpectedly as the anxiety had arrived—it disappeared with my laughter at the absurdities of his “statements of concern.” All I needed, as it turns out, was a nice dose of REALITY to adjust my warped-and-freaked-out-for-no-good-reason perspective. And with a lot of help from some friends and parents, the house was cleaned and emptied… and I turned over the keys… anxiety-free.