Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The day after ...

 When a pet gives you his heart ... it is hard to not return the affection.

This is Grimace.  

He is my son's dog and Grimace loves his "papa" very very much.

He came into our lives as a rescue at the age of 3.  He made such a difference in our lives.

Such unqualified love and devotion he shared with all his family.

At some point he discovered he had a grandma.  

That discovery led to 11 years of a loving relationship that grew and grew and grew.

There was nothing I wouldn't do for my soul mate.

Towards the end of his life we became so close.

Yesterday, at the age of 14 1/2 my dear Grimmy's life came to an end.

 I was at his side.

He struggled and struggled until the very end.

I kissed his dear face, rubbed his floppy ears and gave him a last hug.

It was my last loving gift to him - letting go!

Today is the day after.

I am lost without him.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Progress ... to a brick wall?

The moving saga continues.  

It progresses to a point that may hit a brick wall.

The last few days I took a break from all this effort.  I was too tired to continue. I really need to pace myself now.  My energy levels are not inexhaustible.  Such a sad observation of an older body.  But it confirms the need to make some life adjustments during this year.

The real problem so far has been the lack of properties that fit our needs.  Oh yes, there are bunches out there, more and more every day.  And that is encouraging.  But I know we cannot move into a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo that has only 800 to 950 square feet.  I have seen a few.  We need about 1,000 square feet.  And many condos use that limited space very poorly.  They are filled with walls and hallways - instead of maximizing the limited space with an open style floor plan.  It is amazing how many advertise an "open floor" plan and when you see it, the walls seem to close you in.

Then there is the problem of condition.  Neither my husband or I are handy.  We won't move from a townhouse that really is "move in ready" and start over in a condo that was listed as "move in ready" and isn't.  One property needed all new appliances and painting throughout.  All the closet doors would need to be replaced.  And, of course, the biggest hinderance, no access by wheel chair or walker should we need it in the future.  I could not face repeating all the work we did here - to make another place right for us.  If it was a hobby or a talent of mine, maybe, but it isn't.  And that kind of updating requires money when you hire someone to do it for you.

No matter ... something may show up.  It is only April.  We have searched for only a month.  We are early in this process.  But it sure is tiring and challenging.

The downsizing and cleaning continues.  Collection of packing materials continues.  A few boxes have been packed.  The house continues to feel less and less filled - even if only to our eyes.  It has been a freeing process.  One I wish I had done earlier.

But the condo market in our area just isn't cooperating yet.

Although my husband cannot help with any of these efforts ... we have settled together on a plan of action.

Our plan looks something like this ...

  • Continue the clean out and downsize efforts until we reach the point that the remaining stuff is what we use all the time and love.  
  • Continue to look at condos with the eye to move in 2016.
  • When we find a property we are interested in, then put our townhouse on the market to sell.  This approach is chancy because it assumes that the condo seller will wait while we sell our townhouse.  It is possible.  We both agree, however, we don't want to be pushed into buying something else quick (maybe making a bad decision) because we have a buyer for our place waiting in the wings. 
  • Come October, if we have not moved, we may wind up settling in place making adjustments to this property to make it almost do-able.  Those adjustments include things like stair lifts and hiring cleaning help.  Certainly this is a fall back position - and not ideal on many levels.  But re-settling in a condo that doesn't fit our needs either is not ideal.  
  • On the upside the townhouse and our contents would be in total move-ready condition should something change unexpectedly.
Right now, I think that is the best we can do.

Friday, April 22, 2016


Moving away from the moving theme for a bit, lets talk food.


Yes, that is my breakfast.  

I love breakfast.  And not just any breakfast.  I need something that will hold me until lunch time.  I have repeated this breakfast menu almost every single morning for more than a year.

  • One egg and one egg white, sprinkled a little cheese, 
  • 2 pieces of low fat sandwich ham fried in butter :-)
  • fresh veggies cut up with a tablespoon of humus,
  • a wassa cracker, a tablespoon of humus
  • and if available ... massaged kale.  
  • Oh, and my second cup of coffee.  The first cup of coffee must be ingested about an hour before starting to cook so that I am safe working over hot surfaces.  Ha.

Every.Single.Morning.  Over and over again.

When I go to bed at night I think about breakfast, I love it that much.  I think, maybe I will eat something different in the morning.  Maybe oatmeal with dry fruit and nuts.  Maybe some pancakes.  Maybe waffles.  Maybe a bagel with cream cheese.  Choices, choices.

But in the morning, my body seems to crave everything in that picture and I begin the ritual breakfast meal prep.  And when everything is ready, I sit at the table with my Kindle and read while I eat.  It is amazing I don't get tired of it.

There is only one exception to this breakfast.

Left over Chinese carry out!
That is AMAZING at breakfast.

So what does your breakfast look like?  And please, someone say they love Chinese carry out for breakfast.  :-)

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Good Morning World ...

... at 5:30 am, sometimes 4:00 am, and even 3:00 am.

Sleep does not seem to be my friend all that much of recent months.

I know the problem probably lies in change.  Moving may be the culprit.  We are probably only 10% into this whole process ... and I am tired - like all the time tired.

Packing up everything you own and moving it somewhere else unsettling at any age, but more so when you get older.  Add to that all the details required to selling and buying property, changing all your services and getting resettled somewhere else is enough to rob anyone of sleep.

My brain seems to have trouble shutting off and taking a break to sleep.

Of course sleep and I haven't been all that fast friends since I entered my 60s.  And I regularly use non prescription sleep aids to get my eyes to close at bedtime.  The problem is keeping them closed.  Hence the 'joyful' welcome of the morning.  Truly, if I open my eyes and the clock says 5:30 am ... I count that as a full night sleep even if I closed my eyes at midnight.  If the clock says 2:00 am, I have a serious talk with my wide awake brain as I lay there in bed willing sleep to come.  Usually by 4:00 am I win the war and sleep comes.

And yet, around 2:00 in the afternoon, I can't seem to keep my eyes open.  If I sit, the body takes that as a signal to relax and the eyes quickly follow.  Seldom do I actually sleep then either.  I rest.

My mom used to call this position 'just resting her eyes.'  I get it now mom, I get it!  Too bad she is not here in person to see that I get it.

And maybe this all has nothing to do with the stress of moving.  Maybe this has more to do with facing my 70s.

Maybe that aging brain I talked about a few posts back is just the tip of the iceberg of everything slowing down.

Well ... so much for wool gathering!  
No time to dither.
  Need to keep moving and packing and pitching!
  The clock is ticking.
  Too much to do to sit and watch it tick.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Oven Conveys with the House.

Today I cleaned the oven.

Ok, ok, I have a self-cleaning oven, and it cleaned it self ... but when you clean your oven only every 4 or 5 years, it is a big frick'en deal.  So I take credit for hitting the self clean button and thinking, "Oh good, it still works."

It was a lovely day today, so I had all the windows open.  Why is that important?  You will understand shortly.

I am getting ready to sell this house and the oven conveys with the sale of the house, so it was time to clean the oven.  I mean, after all, when I start looking at other properties to buy I will certainly open the oven to see if it is clean!  :-)   You would do that right?? So my oven needed to be clean in case someone like me looks!

But I am so much better at this than I used to be.

Several years ago - well, maybe more than several years - like maybe 25 years ago, I remember deciding to clean my dirty oven.  It was a self-cleaning model then too.   The oven was very dirty.  Not just stained with cooked on stuff on the sides, but bunches of clumps of crusty whatever clustered on the bottom of the oven.  Yes, that bad. Time to do the deed.  I locked the oven door and hit the self clean button.  I smugly enjoyed the ease of this 20th century feature while my oven started its clean cycle.  I remember thinking that I was a modern 20th century wife and mother.  I didn't need to do this distasteful task myself.  With the flick of a finger, I was cleaning my oven.

Oh, did I mention it was January?  Did I mention is was about 35 degrees outside?  Well, it was. That's important to know.

Anyway, now the oven was cleaning.

Then the oven began to smoke.  Smoke started to creep out of the stove vents.  Not a lot but enough to be alarming.  The smoke detector sensed the smoke and it began to chirp ... ok, scream.  Yikes!  I tried to turn the oven off.  The oven ignored my efforts.   It was locked in its clean cycle, the heat was at hellish levels, and it was doing what I was asked it to do.  No stopping it now.  Crap!

I tried to turn the smoke detector off and realized I didn't know how to turn it off.  Great!  My eyes began to burn a bit, and although the smoke level was minimal ... (how do you judge "minimal" smoke in your house?) ... the smell was getting intense.  I started to cough.  I decided to turn off the house heat and open all the windows.  I had young children in the house, after all.  We needed to breath!!

Oh, and did I mention it was January and it was 35 degrees outside?  Well, it was.

So then the house began to get cold (but the air quality got better ... I am a "glass is half full kind of person.")  But we were getting really cold.  So we all put on our coats and sat at the kitchen table huddled together waiting for the oven to do its thing.  For 3 hours!!

Oh, and I also stepped down off my 20th Century modern woman pedestal long enough to figured out how to stop the blaring smoke alarm.

It was not my finest hour.

So this week (mid April) when I pushed the self cleaning button of my oven, the day was beautiful,  the temp was about 65 degrees, my windows were open AND I cleaned out the crust at the bottom of my oven in advance (Very.Very.Important)

We still had some odor.  My husband complained about the smell in the house and I cautioned him that things could be worse ... it could be 30 degrees outside, the smoke alarm could be screaming and he would need to wear his coat.

He had NO IDEA what I was talking about.  See 25 years ago he was at work when I last covered myself in glory with my skillful oven cleaning efforts.  I am so much improved now! :-)

Don't go looking for the 'before' picture.  There isn't one.
I have no intention of leaving proof behind of my house keeping  short comings.

Anyway, the oven is now sparkling clean.  

Now we can move.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Where to go ...

The big question is ... 


Where are we to go?

I have given this some thought.  If you know me personally, you know I love lists.  Here is my list of criteria for our search - in pretty much the order of importance:
  1. Stay in Howard County where there is an excellent hospital, ideally stay in the city of Columbia where we have lived for 43 years, and if all the stars align correctly, remain in our current neighborhood where we have lived for 31 years.  Guess you could say we have history here. :-)  Thankfully we have two lovely condo developments close to us that fall comfortably within bullet #1.
  2. Buy down - meaning, buy at about 80% or less of the current value of our town house.  Although that narrows our choices,  there are options in that range.
  3. Two bedrooms and two bathrooms.  At a minimum a full and a half bath - 2 toilets!  At our age, waiting to use the toilet is not realistic - at least not without a change of pants (ha!).  Just say'en.
  4. No interior steps.  It is amazing how many units have steps within the condo.  We might have to take 5 or 6 steps to get to our front door, but lack of steps inside the condo is non-negotiable.  After living with 49 steps in total, I think we can do 6 to the front door.
  5. Square footage should be between 1000-1200 square feet.  If I was single, I could go smaller, but two people need more space - especially two people who have been married for 47 years.  If you have been married that long you know exactly what I am talking about!  
  6. Walking distance to a grocery store.  Most couples share driving duties.  There is a main driver and a back up driver.  Well, our main driver, my husband, stopped driving 10 years ago - and our back up driver, me,  is getting older by the minute.  Just to be safe, close access to basic necessities is important.
  7. No top floor condos for me - even if there is an elevator.  I'd like to think I could jump from a burning building and have a chance of surviving.  :-) Meant as a joke, but at the same time I am very serious.  So a second or third floor condo is preferred.  An elevator building is required for a third floor condo.
  8. I am on the fence in getting a first floor condo - but I am trying to keep an open mind.  I live in a city, a safe city mostly, but crime happens even in safe places.
  9. I am not interested in a  55+ plus community.  I enjoy living around a variety of people of different ages and backgrounds.  Besides, those 55+ communities are more expensive than we can afford.
  10. And finally, no condo fixer-uppers!  My husband and I are degrading into fixer-uppers.  We don't have to live in one!
So that is my top 10.   Will I get all 10?  Chances are against it.

I have spent considerable  time checking out online properties.  The real-estate  listings today are wonderful because they provide pictures and details without ever leaving your living room.  That search has resulted in exactly one property that meets all 10 criteria.  Only one out of hundreds.  Amazing.  I must be too picky.  Of course every day is a new day in the real-estate world.  Who knows that will be listed tomorrow.

Next week we will see the one condo that fits our needs ... if it is still available!

Oh ... and today is my birthday!!  
Happy Birthday to me.  
Guess I will find out who actually reads to the end of my wordy contributions
 to the blog-sphere!

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Big Pitch to Small Living

I am not talking baseball.

I am talking clutter, downsizing, shrinking.  I am talking giving away stuff to friends and family, trips to the dump and donations to charity organizations.

Over 7 years of blogging, I've written 28 posts about clutter.  Clearly this topic is important for me.  And it is breath taking (and embarrassing) to think of all the items that have passed through my hands over the years.  You can't inherit 3 households (small households for sure), and not have a mega highway of stuff running through you life.  Let's not forget my husband and I also contributed generously to that collection of stuff.

Some people downsize to the point that living in a smaller space comfortably is possible.  That is our goal.  But smaller can translate into tiny for some.  That is not our goal.  I have been, however, very curious about the tiny house movement.  The true tiny house runs about 120-220 square feet of space.  It is fascinating to see those small spaces and how inventive folks need to be to live in them.  I wouldn't live in one myself but it is fun to explore that option through the lives of others.  Of course, when you live in 2200 square feet of space like I have done for 31 years, stuff grows to fit the void.  Getting to smaller living is hard when you live in a bigger than average structure.

That is about to change for me.
Less stuff and less square footage.

Our goal is to shrink from 2200 square feet to pretty much half or 1100 square feet.  Not exactly a "tiny" house, but it will qualify in my mind as smaller living.

And to get to that goal, the "big pitch" is underway.  This time it is not just stuff at risk... furniture is also getting the boot.

I always find this effort to be so rewarding.  As I pare down my belongings, I feel lighter, more in control, and in a strange way - very appreciative of the stuff that makes the cut.  It is like seeing 'the keepers' with more clarity remembering why I loved that item to begin with.  Truly, too much stuff seems to distract me from what I really care for.

I have made pretty good inroads in cleaning out stuff, but much remains to be done.  I am so grateful that I did so many decluttering sessions in the years before this one.  I can't imagine how hard this would be if I had a house that was literally stuffed to the rafters.

A month ago I gave away a full size spinning wheel that I purchased 7 years ago - during a time when I was coping with stress by buying stuff.  When I think of spinning I am drawn to spinning on a spindle.  Spinning yarn is in my future - just not on a wheel.  My spinning wheel was a gift to my cousin - and she and Agatha (yes, the wheel's name is Agatha), are spinning away joyfully together.  Never have I had so much fun sharing of my belongings as that gift to my cousin.

Yesterday I gave away a collectable bear dressed in a Marine Corp dress uniform.  It was a pricey bear I purchased when my son entered the Marine Corp.  It when to a family with a new born boy - the father was a Marine.  The perfect home for my Marine Corp bear! (Wish I kept a picture of him for this post.)

Today I gave away my Kitchen Aide Food Processor.  God knows that I was thinking when I bought that.  I cook only to eat - certainly not out of enjoyment - and that kitchen gadget was pricey.  It is not going with us.

Tomorrow we are having a "give away" for friends.  My husband and I collected Chess Sets for many years.  Our kitchen table is stacked with them.  We kept a special few - maybe 3.  I really love those 3.  But the others, all beautiful and unique, will find new homes soon I hope.

I am not sorrowful or pensive about any of these departing items.  In fact I can't even remember most  the stuff that I carried out of this house in the years preceding today.  Its been freeing and fun.

I am excited about this move to less and smaller.  Yes, it is being forced on me by circumstance, and the steps needed to get their are tiring and scary, but the end result will be positive!

Sunday, April 17, 2016


Sadness creeps in when I think about leaving this townhouse.  I miss this place already and I haven't even left it yet.

Growing up I never lived in a home we owned.  I was raised in rental properties and we move a few times before I got married.  As a married woman we moved a few times before settling here.   There was no place that had roots for me ... until here.

I've lived 31 of my 69 years in this spot.  My roots here are deep.  It has been sort of my silent partner through some of the toughest and happiest years of my life.  It has been a good place to live.

I raised a family here.

I supported two elderly relatives through their last years here.

I offered shelter to my adult children more than once here.

I watched my mother sit on the front porch for hours here.

I mourned the passing of my mom here.

I watched my mother-in-law suffer and die here.

I watched my husband lose his vision here.

I mourned the loss of 7 cats here.

I watched my son leave for the military here.

I worried every year he was in service here.

I watched my daughter struggle with the downs of job loss here.

I watched my son leave this house on his wedding day to start a new life here.

I welcomed friends and family through many many holidays here.

I welcomed a new daughter-in-law into our family here.

I snuggled and loved (beyond all reason) grand dogs here.

I struggled with my own demons in a demanding job here.

Here ...
the place I am preparing to sell because it no longer
supports my life in a safe and comfortable way.

I try to remember how lucky I have been to experience home ownership.  Much of the world doesn't have more than a hovel to call home.  I remind myself that when I am long gone from this earth this townhouse will still be here, sheltering another family I hope.  I instruct my silly self to focus on the fact this townhouse is an inanimate object, a structure - not a living being and my attachment is maybe a little bazaar.   All those life experiences live vibrantly in my mind only.

I know all that.

But I can't help the feeling that a major portion of my life experiences are embedded here - in the  walls, the air, the foundation.  And I can't box any of that up and take it with me.

I hope I don't cry during settlement when I sign this place away to someone else and walk away ... this place I called home for 31 years. This place with my roots.

How will they know how special 'here' is!   

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Early Stages

So what does this picture of boxes suggest to you?

If you thought of 'moving,' you would be right!

We are facing a move and we are in the very early stages of that enormous task.

Long time readers know that I live in a 3 level town house with 2 full flights of stairs.  Those who followed the blog during the years my mother lived here know that I also have 20 common area steps to climb to reach my front door.  49 steps in all!  Some may also know that after 30 years of wonderful service to my family, this town house has gotten just too big.  Too big to heat and cool, too big to clean (3 1/2 bathrooms for 2 people is too many toilets to clean and does anyone really need 11 closets,) and too much in taxes and upkeep for retired folks on a limited income.

I frequently hear things like - what a lovely setting, how well maintained, the neighborhood is great, and .... huh, just how many steps do you have??

Last year we began talking about moving.  But my husband and I were of two minds - so the topic was dropped.  This year, with me facing 69 and him facing 70, (yikes) the topic of downsizing brought us to the 'move' question again.   The realization that on this day we are as young as we are ever going to be was a big motivator to get serious.

So the downsizing parade has begun.  Lists of furniture and objects that will not travel with us are underway, conversations with the realtor and our bank are in full swing, and packing has begun.  All very early stages, but started in earnest.

And let me say this now ... it is exhausting and at times overwhelming. We should have done this years ago, but years ago I was exhausted and overwhelmed with caregiving.  The timing was never right for a move.

So I plan to take you with me during this 'adventure' (nightmare.)

Hold onto your hats!

In closing - a personal observation about aging as it relates to change and big decisions (and this move is a big decision.)

I learned through practical experience how the aging brain handles change.  Not well!  It looks very much like ... nothing.  No movement, no change to upset the status quo.  There is comfort and security in the known.  Lack of action makes a weird sense as time marks your body and mind.  Looking to conquer even small challenges is not on your radar.

In early senior years the brain may continue to function well, but it is easy to slip into faulty thinking about the future.   "I don't need to change anything.  Yes, this isn't ideal but I can handle it now, and yes, I should be able to handle it for years to come."  And in a small percentage of the population that may be true.  But can you be sure you are in the small percentage.  Hard to know.

I have seen the initial stages of faulty thinking in myself this year.  Last year I was 100% in favor of selling the townhouse and moving.  I saw the writing on the wall of our lives.  It was all plain as it could be.   We need to move.  I was 68 last year.

This year I am 69 and the tiny web of resistance to change crept in.  Again I started to push for a move.  My husband started to see the logic of it, but I began to second guess myself.  There were days when I wondered is this the right thing to do.  After all, we are handling it now, how terrible would it be if we didn't change anything, yes, I know all these steps are not ideal for my disabled husband, but he has fallen only once on them.  We are doing just fine now.

See what I mean?

Next year I am 70
 and who knows what I will be able to talk myself into not doing.

The early stages ... the clock is ticking!

More to come.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Why blog ...

Oh my!  My last post was in January - expounding on the reaching the mid-winter point!  Here we are in April and not a word written in-between.

Yes, I still live!  And shocking (to my mind), I have received a few inquiries ... where are you, are you returning to blog land?

One of my blog friends, Paula, posted an interesting piece on March 5th called Where did they go?  She lamented about folks who stopped posting to their blog for 8 or 10 months, some as long as a year ... some never to return.  She missed the sharing of life experiences and wondered why they stopped.  That post sparked my thinking on those of us to disappear from blogging - for a time or forever.

I guess it all comes down to why a person blogs in the first place.  I think we blog writers fall into 2 camps of people:

  • those who write for themselves (they don't need an audience, they just need to get ideas out somewhere and the blog is a good place to plant them.)
  • those who write for others (they write to educate, to sell, to explore ideas others, to generate conversation, to share a talent or hobby.)

Some bloggers might say they slop over into both categories, but I fall entirely in the first category.  I write for me.  The need to write comes and goes as life changes.  I believe the first category is where most "drop outs" can be found because the "need" to blog wanes.  Life changes.

For myself, it all started as a way to cope with my intense caregiving experience.  Eight years is a long time to step out of your normal life and give that energy to someone else.  My blog was a coping tool.  It was at times a life saver.

After mom died, that coping mechanism seems less needed.  Moving on and sorting out how my life was now as well as adjusting to my own aging issues seemed uninteresting to write about.  Hence the periodic absences.

Well, I am back again.  For how long I do not know.

But I will tell you ... it hasn't been boring here in my corner of blog land.

More on that to follow!