Moving Forward

Moving forward. A Pods container used in our latest moving adventure.A few weeks ago, some of our family from New England came to visit. There were three children in our (small) house, as well as several adults, and it was noisy in the way that family visits are. For an introvert such as myself, it’s a bit nerve-wracking at times, but still…it was good being around family that we hadn’t seen in person since last summer.

The day that they left, they backed out of our driveway early in the morning, pulled slowly to the end of our cul-de-sac, and began their journey home. I walked to the end of our house and into our daughter’s room, which has the best view, and watched them drive away. I was thinking about how remarkably quiet the house was now. Too quiet at times. While it was soothing to my introverted nerves, I still missed our visitors.

That was three weeks ago. To say that things have taken an unexpected turn in those three weeks would be the definition of understatement.

Karen and I have been aching to return to New England for some time, especially now that the New Year’s addition to our family means that we have outgrown this house. We didn’t expect that to happen so…unexpectedly. An unexpected phone call resulted in an unexpected phone interview, which resulted in an unexpected trip to Boston to meet a team that resulted in an unexpected job offer. It felt so good being back in Boston, if even for a day, and now that will be a much more permanent state of affairs.

We’re moving in just three weeks.

With moving, of course, comes carefully orchestrated chaos as planning and organizing, phone calls and paperwork become interspersed with the day-to-day complexity of life. Things become progressively more…interesting…as more and more items become packed into boxes. No matter how well one plans, there will still always be that moment when you say of something that you need, “Where I did I put…oh, it’s packed.”

Karen and I have moved multiple times in the last few years. This will be our third major move up (or down) the East coast in just four years. While I am eagerly looking forward to this new part of our adventure, I find myself doing what I always do when we move.

I remember.

Now, this isn’t the overly nostalgic sort of remembrance to which I was (all too) prone for a bit, but rather a learned focus on recollecting the good things that happened during the phase of your journey that is ending.

When Karen and I moved (quite abruptly) to take care of this house, I felt as though I screeched to a halt. I had been moving at a breakneck pace since finishing school, and now found myself without a job to go to. This made time for unexpected things. We had been watching the Harry Potter movies before our move (I had never seen them, and Karen rightfully took it upon herself to remedy that tragic situation), and we had quiet evenings to finish them. I had time to pause and learn new technologies for my profession. Because we made several stops during that move and consolidated items that had been left behind at parents’ houses since we were married (or, in some cases, since we had left home for undergrad), we now had all of our stuff under one roof for the first time. I spent several evenings going through old comic books and novels that I hadn’t seen in years. While there was pressure involved (I was essentially beginning what would become two years of earning a living as a freelancer and contractor), it was relaxing for those first few weeks.

Of course, life became incredibly hectic again, and I had the opportunity for some really fantastic professional achievements here. There were several moments of renovating this house that I will hold quite fondly in my memory. We had the chance to frequently visit some of our closest friends from before we moved to New England the first time, and I am so very grateful for all of these opportunities.

I am more than ready to leave the South. As things become more quiet, though, I have more of a chance to remember. The contradiction of moving is that, while many things begin to move at a frantic pace, others slow down paradoxically. There is a huge importance, I think, to making space for the spiritual discipline of remembering these good times, these positive events. While I become less tolerant of moving as I get older, I find that these moments of reflection are gifts that only seem to occur as markers in these sorts of occasions.

For everything that has frustrated me here, there has been so much good, as well. I am grateful for every moment, as well as for every unexpected turn that our adventure together has taken, and for the family that we’ve become as we’ve embraced them together.

Moving forward is frantic, but there are tiny moments of quiet involved. Those moments hold beauty when you listen.

Moving Adventures

Moving Adventures

I’m actually not dead. Nor have I abandoned writing here. It’s just that…well, moving sucks.

In fact, moving sucked even worse this time than it has in a very long time. You see, despite how definite I was that we wouldn’t be moving for some time…

The issue this time is that we have a house, actually. Not one that we had ever really intended to live in, but one that Karen had owned before we even met. We had kept it as a rental property, but, as it was comfortably situated in North Carolina and we were comfortably situated outside of Boston, we decided to sell it. Except, work needed to be done. After all of the factors were added together, moving back into the house made sense. So, in the span of a few weeks, we planned and executed our second major state-to-state move in three years. That’s a total of four moves in three years, all told, if you’re keeping score.

I am.

We were sort of on our own this time, at least for the front end of the move. Where we had been blessed with an abundance of friends that helped us before, this time it was just us. We hired movers to pack the truck that we had rented, and launched into a week-long trek from New England to the Dirty South.

And, thus began the comedy of errors. Well, except…not so comedic.

The morning of the move was tightly scheduled. I was picking up the truck at 9:00, appliances that would be needed at the “new” house were being delivered at 9:45 to be loaded onto the truck, and the movers were arriving to take over packing at 10:00. We were to be on the road by 2:00, on our way to the first stopping point.

Except the truck that was reserved for 9:00 wasn’t returned by the previous renter, and this particular rental company apparently doesn’t keep contingency plans, so I didn’t end up with a truck until nearly noon. Livid didn’t quite describe me. After doing an interesting dance of coordination with all of the parties involved, I eventually received a moving truck. A much larger one than I had reserved. They were giving it to me at no additional charge, though, so I thought it would be good. We could make use of the extra space.

Then I drove it. It was a big truck.

A very large, very long, very tall, diesel truck. A truck about which I will continue to have nightmares for years.

Then, the movers managed to pack the bag containing Karen’s wallet and keys inside the truck…somewhere that we couldn’t locate. So, we had a choice: trust that we would find them during un-packing, or un-pack and re-pack the truck again  ourselves. We chose the first option.

Then, on our second day of travel and after a respite with family, we realized a very troubling fact. That wonderful navigation app on your phone, or the GPS on your dashboard? It doesn’t know that you need a commercial route. It doesn’t know that you’re driving a truck that requires 13 feet of overhead clearance. It navigates you the shortest route because that’s what it does. Except that route through New York state involved a parkway with only 8 feet of overhead clearance.

Did I mention that you get cited for driving a truck that large on a parkway in New York state? Especially since the police had to stop traffic and close off a road in order for me to get out of that mess?

Then, I broke my coffee press.

The next day, I had to figure out how to navigate over Maryland and West Virginia mountains on our way to pick things up from other family members without burning out the brakes on that truck.

When we finally arrived in North Carolina (and after we had managed to back that monster into our driveway), and our friends began helping us un-pack, we discovered that the so-called professional movers had, in fact, not secured anything in the truck, and that several items of furniture had been broken during the move.

You may be familiar with the theological concept of providence. We can debate the miraculous manifestations and definitions thereof, but I can tell you that, from a practical perspective, I prayed more in the week I drove that truck than I likely had in the two months preceding. While that’s a problematic indicator in its own right, my point is that each time I was at a distressing juncture, the providential happened. The cop in New York had another call and let me go with a warning. I encountered another police officer who gave me advice in which ways to go to avoid low clearances. Some family members helped re-organize the truck as best we could to avoid further damage before arrival. Oh, and Karen found the bag containing her wallet, safely tucked away as we un-packed the truck.

The stress of this event isn’t over. We now have a home to repair and get ready to sell. I’m still in a new career with a 2-year-old. This is going to be an interesting few years.

I’ve learned to not plan life too carefully, because it has a way of turning out differently than anticipated. We’ve been in North Carolina for less than a week, and I already miss New England terribly. The mental and emotional adjustments required for this phase of life are going to be huge, and they’re going to be exhausting. What I’ve learned from that one-week experience, however, is that placing my faith outside of my own capabilities is what is necessary just to survive life. I received a much-needed reminder of God’s presence during this move. I’m going to require more of it to handle whatever unexpected adventure life throws at us next.

Image attribution: Maggie under Creative Commons.

The Tale of a Monster Chair

About a year ago, I was finishing up school outside of Boston and we were living in the sort of tiny little apartment that comes with being a student again. We received some various handed-down items from a sister-in-law who lives a few states away. If you’re a parent, you know how this works. Toys and clothes are outgrown at the speed of light, and are thus passed down to other children in the family. This distributes things out a bit, and keeps all of you from going broke.

The issue with this system is that you don’t always like what you get. Of course, it’s a gift, and can be re-gifted if you don’t like it, either further down the family tree or out of the family altogether, if you think you’re doing someone a favor by doing so.

When we received a red Elmo chair, that was basically the immediate plan. The thing had to go. Karen and I hold the view that Elmo is…well, he’s basically evil. He is linguistically challenged (incessant third-person, anyone?), he giggles at everything whether appropriate or not, and his voice makes fingernails down a chalkboard sound musical by comparison. There’s nothing educational about Elmo. Watching him destroys brain cells. The last thing we want is for our daughter to ever even know that he exists.

Of course, she liked the chair the first time she saw it, sat in it, asked us about it. She began to refer to it as her “monster chair,” and was quite enamored with the thing, as fate would have it.

Karen and I conferenced (if you’re a parent, you also know how this works…sort of like the huddle in the middle of the game). We agreed to roll with it until our daughter lost interest. As soon as she diverted (or we could divert) her attention to something else, the Monster Chair would quickly be whisked away, never to be heard from again.

The issue was that, every time we attempted to get rid of it, were just on the verge of finally letting it vanish, our daughter would spot it, delightfully proclaim that her Monster Chair was back, and sit in it to watch something or play. So, we would wait until it faded to the background again.

The strategy changed a bit. We would wait longer, give her longer to forget about it. She saw it as we were packing to move into our most recent apartment and latched onto it again. so we moved it with us, and slipped it into a closet to be forgotten about. Except that it was seen when that closet was opened for Christmas decorations, and had to be tolerated again for a few weeks. Most recently, it had been shuffled back into that closet after being seen when another toy was brought out.

The day before I write this, we finished packing our entire collective life into a moving truck yet again, this time heading south toward warmer climates once more. For the next year or more, we’ll be living in the Raleigh area. During the packing process, Karen came across the Monster Chair. What followed was something like this.

I came home one evening to find the Monster Chair in the hallway outside of our apartment. Karen and I exchanged knowing glances when I arrived inside. The offending thing was going away for good this time. Karen left for work that evening, and took it all the way downstairs to the first floor hallway of the apartment building. When she came home, I went to the laundry room, also on the first floor. The Monster Chair came with me, transferred to the folding counter. In our apartment building, this was where odds and ends were placed that were being given away. Toys were frequently left there, we had noticed, so it seemed logical. Someone would find a use for the Monster Chair, and we would never have to see it again.

The following morning, Karen had ran an early errand and I got up with our daughter. After breakfast, I was focused on cleaning tasks that needed to be finished as we packed for the move. One of those tasks was still laundry. Our daughter came downstairs with me. I opened the door to the laundry room, and immediately saw the Monster Chair in my peripheral vision. I kept the look of realization from my face, and kept moving, hoping she would miss it. She closed the door behind me, one of the “big girl” things that she likes to do now, and I watched as her eyes traveled across the room to rest on the chair. She paused. Her mental gears turned. She tilted her head to one side, and formed her words carefully.

“Daddy, that’s my Monster Chair,”

I changed the subject. We walked back to the stairway, just as Karen came into the building from the outside. Our daughter ran to greet her with a big hug, and the question, “Mommy, did you put my Monster Chair down there?”

Karen stared. I shrugged. Our daughter talked about it all the way upstairs, after which I walked back downstairs to retrieve the chair.

When we moved yesterday, it was on the moving truck.

So, it appears that this Monster Chair is just something that isn’t going away. Karen and I have officially given up trying to rid ourselves of it. We’re stuck with the Monster Chair. It’s just one of those amusing tales of moving that we’re accumulating. I suppose that, considering we’ve still managed to avoid letting our daughter ever watch Elmo, then maybe this isn’t’ that bad.