Friday, August 26, 2016

Not the best idea I ever had...or was it?

After realizing that life here in the Southland was way too expensive (not to mention crowded and hot), I was in the middle of packing for a return to Montana when the roof fell in (see the last blog). At the same time, my 87 yr old mum had come to the realization that she could no longer ignore the fact that her back was a mess.  Not only does she have a curvature of the spine, but she slipped and fell several times, several years ago and despite needing physical therapy for the cracks/breaks/muscle pulls from the falls, did not pursue it beyond the initial assessment at her doctor's office. She had lots of reasons, none of them very good, for why she didn't get help for her back, ranging from she was too busy to it was too far to drive. But eventually, years later, she has realized that the problem is not just going to go away on its own. She has gradually gone from sometimes using a cane to always using a cane and frankly, should probably be using a walker. With this new found realization of the joys of physical therapy looming, she asked if I would delay my return to Montana to help her out by moving in with her while she begins her treatments.  And so I finished packing up my apartment, directed the movers to put my things in storage for 3 months, and moved into my mom's guest room, all the while thinking, this is not the best idea I have ever had.

You know those people who, from the moment you walk in to their house, just seem to have the knack for making you feel at home?  That's not my mom.  She has a knack for making you feel oddly unwelcome, even while she is smiling and inviting you in. She is one of those people who would give you the shirt off her back...and then remind you (often) that you were wearing her favorite, irreplaceable shirt that is very precious to her, but would refuse to take the darn thing back because it was probably stretched all out of shape and stained.

Sometimes the things she does, like reloading the dishwasher because the small saucers go on the right side, not the left, make me want to laugh.  Sometimes, like when she digs thru the garbage and recycle bins in 100 degree weather to make sure I haven't thrown anything priceless away, they make me want to scream. I have rolled my eyes at her so many times over the past month that I am amazed they aren't permanently lodged sideways in their sockets.

Then one evening while I was multitasking, searching Craigslist for rentals while simultaneously rolling my eyes (no mean feat, that), something odd happened.  My son turned to my mom and said, "When we move back to Montana, why don't you move with us?"  I stared at him, too aghast for words, thinking (hoping) my mom would surely burst out with an emphatic NO, followed by "don't be ridiculous" and "Montana is too cold". Instead she looked pensive, intrigued and finally she said "How would that work?" And he proceeded to tell her, in great detail and with a lot of enthusiasm, just exactly how it would and could work. Before I knew it, the two of them were on the Missoula MLS site picking out potential houses she and I would buy together. I poured myself a big glass of wine, ready to jump in at an opportune moment to squash this nonsense.
Instead, I listened to my son explain about separation of space and full basements with outside entrances and double car garages and big decks with Montana sky views and found myself, if not totally in love with the idea, not totally hating it, either.

I poured another glass of wine and watched these two people, who I love dearly but who are sometimes so at odds with each other you imagine they will never speak civilized words again, sitting side by side at the kitchen counter, flipping thru pictures, oohing and aahing over this kitchen and that fireplace, debating the advantages of being in town vs slightly out of town, a small lot or room for a big garden. And I found myself wondering "How will this work"?

Friday, August 12, 2016

Not the best idea I ever had...Part 1

When people say 'you can't go home again', I think they really mean 'you shouldn't go home again'. 

Last year, while contemplating a move back to the Seattle area to take a full time, in-office job, I spent a month visiting my mom in Southern California.  After being around family for about a week, I was suddenly struck by the idea that I should move not to WA but back to CA!  I grabbed my sister in law and went in search of apartments. Something close, but not too close. A place that would allow me to visit my mom, but not encourage her to drop by every day. I loved the apartment we found and was packed and moved a month later. It had everything I was looking for, a great floorplan, a cozy patio, a huge master bedroom closet and a beautifully landscaped setting just across from Victoria Gardens, one of my favorite shopping destinations. It even had a fenced dog park, which was very important at the time. I loved it so much that I completely ignored the fact that the word "affordable" was not on the list of amenities. Yes, I could cover the monthly rent, but only by doing extensive surgery on my already cut-to-the-bone budget. I spent the first 8 months hosting family get togethers, wine on the patio, holiday buffets, luncheons and birthday parties. It was lovely. Then reality set in. Yes, I was around family and making some new friends, but as my savings dwindled and I found myself turning down invitations to meet for dinner or the movies and struggling to meet my bills, I woke up and realized that, as much as I loved the little apartment, I could not afford it. I did the adult thing, gave 60 days notice, and made plans to move.

A little sad, without a clear destination in mind and therefore not terribly motivated, I dragged my stash of boxes out of the garage and began the slow process of dismantling my apartment. And then, the roof fell in. Well, not really, but kind of. It started with a slow leak in my hallway that rapidly turned into a deluge, not something you expect when you live on the ground floor of a 3 story building. It seems the people in the apartment above me had a portable bidet (who knew that was a thing?), which had to have water constantly running thru it. The hose hooked up to the sink managed to work itself loose and quickly filled the apartment with water. Gravity being what it is, my apartment was next in line.  By the time maintenance got back from lunch and ambled over to investigate (yes, he ambled into my apartment, no doubt expecting the message I had left on his cell phone containing the words "water" "pouring in" and "flooding" was hyperbolic in nature and not factual) water was not only gushing from the hall ceiling, but also trickling out of the electrical outlets and seeping thru the walls.  I had to evacuate immediately.  Management put me up in a lovely hotel with a 2 room suite for 4 days. It was a super nice, business oriented hotel with a full desk, free wi-fi, two huge flat screen TVs, hot breakfast buffet and freshly baked afternoon cookies. If I hadn't been worried about the looming deadline of the moving van arriving at the water logged apartment, I might even have wanted to stay longer.

Four days after I had packed my suitcase and skedaddled, I got the call that the disaster mitigation company had finished its work, the apartment was livable and I could move back in. I bid the hotel adieu and drove right over. Livable is clearly in the eye of the beholder and what my eyes beheld was not even close to livable.  There was no flooring in the entry, kitchen or bathroom, the carpet had been pulled up and the wet pad removed, but only in spots so it was weirdly lumpy. There were exposed beams in some of the ceilings and huge chunks missing from the drywall. All the crown molding was gone as well as the baseboards and about half of the light fixtures were missing. They had unplugged the fridge and pulled it out into the middle of the kitchen (spoiled food anyone?), ditto the oven.  But the best part was that the workers had relocated all of my furniture along with the boxes I had packed to the sides of the rooms, stacking things on top of each other, balancing them like a giant Jenga puzzle.

As I stood in the living room gaping at the 'livable' apartment, I had two thoughts. I can't believe I'm paying money to live here and the movers will be here in 10 days.

End of Part 1.  Next up: Where do I go from here?

The hallway ceiling.  I expected things to drop on me every time I had to pass under the gaping wound. I tried not to stare too long into the depths, because you know, the Abyss thing.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

First thing up, last thing down

I have a little ritual when I move.  Ok, in reality I have a whole bunch of rituals, but I'm only going to share this one.  I learned long ago that if I do not put my keys in exactly the same spot each and every time I enter the house, I will never, ever remember where they are. This led to me buying a cute little key rack that hangs near my front door. Which then led to me buying an even cuter little sister key rack to hang by the back door. The very minute I enter the house, my keys go immediately to one of the hooks on the closest rack. It's such an automatic move for me, that, upon arriving at someone else's house, I look to see where their rack is and am vaguely disappointed when there isn't one. I am a little worried that one day, I will enter a friend's house, see no key hook nearby, and by virtue of old age dissolving the filter between my brain and my mouth, I will shout out WHERE IS THE KEY RACK, YOU IDIOTS? I will be so appalled at myself that I will immediately add I BROUGHT WINE! Because a nice bottle of wine says "I am happy to be here" whereas a shouted key rack rant perhaps does not. Just in case that dissolving thing kicks in before my 80s, I never arrive at anyone's house without wine.

Whenever I move out of an apartment, one of the little racks is the last thing off the wall. It travels with me in the car, because yes, I will even lose my keys in a virtually empty apartment. Once in my new digs, one of the very first things I do is hang the rack on the wall. I'm not saying I am OCD about this, but yeah, I kind of am. It's the last thing down, first thing up. I also travel with my favorite coffee cup and 2 wine glasses, but in a pinch those can be packed. Because Starbucks has cups and wine goes down quite nicely when drunk (drank? guzzled?) from a plastic Solo cup. I suppose that if worse came to worse, I could just hammer in a nail and call it good, but that seems so uncivilized in a concrete block bookcase, bare bulb hanging from the ceiling way.

It's a little ritual that might not make sense to anyone else but me, and one that is definitely not important to anyone else but me, but it's my little ritual and I'm keeping it.